Susan G. Komen Releases Patient Guide to Biosimilars

The Center for Biosimilars Staff

Organizations are releasing patient education materials about what biosimilars are, what questions patients should ask, and other things they might want to know. The latest such example comes from Susan G. Komen, which recently released a guide to using biosimilars and biologics for breast cancer.

2019 saw the launch of long-awaited biosimilars for trastuzumab (referencing Herceptin) for the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer.

With uptake in the United States lagging behind the use of biosimilars elsewhere around the world, patient education is considered key. To that end, organizations are releasing patient education materials about what biosimilars are, what questions patients should ask, and other things they might want to know.

The latest such example comes from Susan G. Komen, which recently released a guide to using biologics and biosimilars for breast cancer, including trastuzumab (referencing Herceptin) and pertuzumab (sold as Perjeta).

Trastuzumab is given in some regimens together with pertuzumab to improve clinical benefit; the 2 antibodies bind to HER2 at different subdomains and have a synergistic effect.

Biosimilar trastuzumab has also made combination trastuzumab/pertuzumab treatment more affordable, allowing greater patient access. Biosimilars to pertuzumab are in development, but are not yet launched.

The educational materials include a fact sheet, a handout of questions to ask one’s physician, and a related video.

The materials stress that, “It’s not possible to make an exact copy of the biologic because it’s a living thing. However, a biosimilar is highly similar to the original biologic drug and works the same way in the body.”

It also stresses the role of the FDA in approving biosimilars, noting that they must have the same safety, the same effectiveness, and similar side effects, and must be given in the same form.

The website also notes that biosimilar costs may fall over time but for now, the organization says it’s unknown how costs will affect patients.

Among the questions to ask a clinician, the organization suggests asking what the provider's experience is with biosimilars, how a patient would know if they’re getting a biosimilar, how biosimilars are tested for safety and effectiveness, who makes the decision about whether to use a reference product or a biosimilar, and whether these products will have any effect on treatment or outcomes.

Besides listing biosimilars to trastuzumab, the website also includes information about biosimilars that boost white blood cell counts in patients undergoing chemotherapy (filgrastim and pegfilgrastim).