The World Speaks: The biosimilars wave is coming

Are Pharmacists Prepared?

The conversation at the pharmacy counter traditionally has been about which pills to take when, but with advances in medical science, a new frontier — biologics and biosimilars — is flourishing. For cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, and an ever-growing list of conditions, biologic medications represent important new treatment options. Yet too often, these come with a hefty price tag that might be out of reach for patients or payers.

Biosimilars offer a solution to the high cost of brand biologic medications. For those unfamiliar, a biosimilar is a Food and Drug Administration-approved biologic medicine that is clinically equivalent to a previously approved brand biologic medicine, which means they are just as safe and effective, and have no clinically meaningful differences from the brand.

The potential savings these products may provide — up to $54 billion over the next 10 years in the United States — should excite anyone who cares about health care. A recent study found that biosimilars could mean new access to treatment for an additional 1.2 million patients — in particular women, lower-income and elderly individuals.

As trusted partners for patients, pharmacists play a critical role. They are and will continue to be a critical voice in educating patients on biosimilar medicines. The American Pharmacist Association recently published “Biosimilar Basics for Patients,” a primer on biosimilars that answers important questions on the confidence patients and pharmacists can have in the safety and effectiveness of these innovative treatment options. As APhA indicates in its primer, “pharmacists can communicate with you and your doctor about whether there is a biosimilar available and whether this is a good option for you.”

Europe, where more than 50 biosimilars have been approved, already is enjoying the benefits of biosimilars. European patients have collectively experienced more than 700 million days of biosimilar use without any safety or efficacy concerns. Biosimilars will have delivered between $11 billion and $33 billion dollars in savings across Europe by 2022.

Savings and increased patient access are the reason the relationship between patients and pharmacists is the most crucial to healthcare delivery, next to the relationship between patients and their doctors. Biosimilars represent an exciting next chapter in this story.

Chip Davis, president and CEO of the Association for Accessible Medicines.