According to a study published in the Journal of Managed Care and Specialty Pharmacy, managed care pharmacy executives are fully onboard with encouraging the use of biosimilars: Eighty-four percent agree that these FDA-approved agents are safe and effective for use in patients who are taking a reference product.
The researchers sent survey invitations to more than 10,000 members and contacts of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy. The survey, conducted in October 2018 was limited to the first 300 respondents. All potential pharmaceutical industry participants were excluded through the use of screening questions. Roughly two-thirds of those participating were pharmacy directors or clinical pharmacists.
The survey asked whether they believed certain policies would improve biosimilar uptake. The results indicated respondents’ belief that prescriber education was still a principal problem (Table). However, they also looked inward, as formulary policies and reduced patient cost sharing may also be key opportunities for improving uptake. Indeed, only 20% of those surveyed were working in health plans or insurers that have established preferences and policies to promote biosimilars over reference products. Eleven percent (at the time of the study) preferred biologics to biosimilars. This may have changed significantly, based on UnitedHealthcare’s recent moves to favor reference agents.
TABLE: LIKELIHOOD THAT SPECIFIC STRATEGIES CAN OVERCOME BARRIERS TO BIOSIMILAR UPTAKE
|Strategy||Extremely or Likely to Be Successful|
|Prescriber education on switching studies||91%|
|Clear FDA guidance on substitution||90%|
|Formulary policy for treatment-naïve patients||88%|
|Prescriber education on real-world studies||86%|
|Expanded Medicare/Medicaid policies||84%|
|Reduced patient cost sharing for biosimilars||80%|
|Formulary policies for switching||73%|
|Government-funded interchangeability studies||70%|
When asked about how formidable these challenge were to overcome, 61% said that provider education was “extremely difficult” or “difficult” to overcome. The inevitable pricing and contracting issues were a close second, at 57%. Respondents offered that this was a competitive hurdle that biosimilar manufacturers must tackle—they need to be more aggressive at launch in terms of discounts off of retail prices and contracting. Concerns about biosimilar safety and efficacy among payers were the least worrisome, with only 23% rating this challenge difficult or extremely difficult.
Only 9 months ago, when the survey was conducted, the US biosimilar arena was far different. It took place after approval and launch of the first pegfilgrastim biosimilar but before the launch of the cancer-treating biosimilars. The discussion of rebate safe harbors was in full swing, the federal government was thinking through its approach to peeling back the patent thicket, and a war on drug pricing was being waged. Today, only the drug pricing efforts are still ongoing. Any hopes for an adalimumab biosimilar launch before 2023 have disappeared. However, a handful of critical launches (e.g., Udenyca®, Kanjinti®, Mvasi®) have pressed more immediate discussion of biosimilar uptake.
The results of this survey demonstrate once again that pharmacists working in managed care organizations are very open to helping spur biosimilar access. Both the manufacturers and payers need to take advantage of this opportunity today.