In September, Sandoz’s Zarxio – a version of Amgen’s Neupogen (filgrastim) - became the first biosimilar product launched in the US, and its arrival was welcomed by non-profit industry organisation the Biosimilars Forum.
The group was set up by a number of major biosimilar developers (including Pfizer, Merck, Samsung Bioepis, and Teva) to help advance access to copycat biological products in the US market, and President Juliana Reed said it is preparing to launch a programme to educate stakeholders about such products, based on European efforts.
“Although biosimilars have been available in Europe for a number of years, they are now just coming to the marketplace in the US, so they are very new to US patients, physicians and other healthcare providers who will be part of their use,” she told Biopharma-Reporter.
“Experience in Europe demonstrated that early, comprehensive and unbiased education about biosimilars and their safe and effective use is a cornerstone of their success in the marketplace.”
The need for education was described as one of the group’s priorities and, Reed continued, “the Forum, working with other stakeholders, is preparing to launch a comprehensive education plan on biosimilars that will lay the ground work for success of the biosimilars industry in the US.”
Counter efforts from innovators
Her comments reflected those of Peter Stenico, Head of Commercial Operations Western Europe at Biosimilar Forum member and Novartis subsidiary Sandoz, who spoke at last month’s CPhI preconnect congress in Madrid about the importance of biosimilar education initiatives.
“[The cost-saving benefits of biosimilars] don’t work if patients, pharmacists and physicians do not know what biosimilars are, so it’s very important to proactively engage physician and patient associations,” he told delegates. You cannot do enough of that!
“Before biosimilars, and even since there is a lot of engagement by originators with these groups – rightfully so – but now we need to do the same thing and give the other side of the coin as well.”
A subsequent Q&A session accused some reference biologic makers of hindering biosimilars acceptance through such education campaigns. But as more originator companies develop their own biosimilars, it was felt the message has become more balanced.
Pfizer, Amgen, Boehringer Ingelheim and Merck & Co., are all proprietary biologic developers, but also have stakes in biosimilars.
We asked AbbVie, a biopharma firm with a blockbuster biologic at risk from biosimilar erosion – Humira – which is not pursuing copycat products on its views on such products.
“Access to safe and effective medicines is critical for patients, to those who care for them, and to AbbVie,” spokesperson Alissa Bolton told us. “AbbVie supports the entry of biosimilars that have been shown, with robust evidence including clinical trials, to be as safe and efficacious as the originator biologic medicines.”