Greater education on the value of biosimilars to physicians, nurses and especially patients could significantly help bring more of these agents into circulation and save money which, in turn, could be spent on it. improvement of the health system. This observation comes from a recent Expert Roundtable on Medicines for Europe on the use of biosimilars in Europe.
“Whenever I talk about biosimilars, patients ‘prior knowledge makes them believe that I am giving them something cheaper that is not of the same quality, and they will look at me in a way that says,’ Are you sure you really want to give me that stuff? Said Matti Aapro, MD, president of the European Cancer Organization. “I think education is extremely important.”
Basic training on biosimilars
Panelists suggested moving biosimilar education into the early education of healthcare professionals, such as doctors and nurses, many of whom can influence how patients perceive biosimilars.
“As we know in biosimilars, the change process is very important for patients to take biosimilars because sometimes we see the nocebo effect with patients and they come back to the innovative product, and that could be avoided if you educate your patients correctly. way, and it’s not just the nurse’s job. It’s about aligning all healthcare professionals to make this happen, ”said Johan De Munter, president of the European Oncology Nursing Society and assistant nurse in charge of the Cancer Center at Ghent University Hospital, in Belgium.
Digestive Cancers Europe (DiCE) has carried out extensive project work to promote the use of biosimilars in colorectal and gastric cancers, and these efforts have involved the participation of pharmacy, clinics, industry and nursing, said Zorana Maravic, Interim CEO of DiCE. She has observed that patients are more supportive of the use of biosimilars if you let them know that the savings from these often cheaper agents can be spent to expand and improve their care and care facilities.
“If you tell a patient that a biosimilar saves money for the health care system, it doesn’t mean anything to them; but if you say biosimilars save money and facilities can be improved or patients will have an additional nurse or support from a nutritionist or psychologist, that’s something tangible for them ” , said Maravic.
She recalled an educational meeting with a group of patients that transformed their attitudes towards these agents. “It was really a magical experience, because we were in a room with 8 or 9 patients, and we organized the session for an afternoon where, I have to say, the patients at the beginning were skeptical about biosimilars because, you know, ‘They’re similar but not equal.
“It was their perception, then the experts presented the science, safety and the role of the European Medicines Agency [in approving biosimilars]. And all of that information has really changed their perspective, and these 8 or 9 patients are now real biosimilars advocates, ”she said.
Europe is ahead of the United States in the use of biosimilars and has closely studied the pharmacological effects of biosimilars. European regulators have made good use of this growing body of evidence to help convince a skeptical public that biosimilars are as safe and effective as their reference products, said Maja Sercic, Policy and Scientific Officer of Medicines for Europe.
“The news about pharmacovigilance is that there is ‘no news’, or nothing [untoward] arrived. So, I think this is such important information, that biosimilars are actually safe and there have been no complications in the past 15 years. Thus, regulators share this clinical experience. I think that’s really the key, and I think it can really bring comfort to the whole community, ”Sercic said.
One of the big themes of the panel was the existing inefficiencies in healthcare, which they said are quite significant in some cases and in need of serious attention. “We think it’s really important to look at healthcare budgets as a whole. Too often – for us and for everyone – it’s hard to find the data. We don’t know how the money is invested in each hospital, based on the results obtained, so there is a lot of inefficiency, and it is important to stop wasting the money, ”said Maravic. “I think biosimilars can help, if not surplus, definitely reduce the budget deficit.”
The waste can mean inefficiencies at the practice level, such as preparing medications for patients who don’t show up for their appointments, Aapro said.
Savings from biosimilars can be strategically deployed to reduce overall care needs, Maravic said. “Right now we have a budget for prevention, we have a budget for treatment, and we can use the savings from biosimilars and deploy them in screening. We could save money because many cancers would be detected at an early stage. “
It costs an average of $ 4,881 to treat a patient with stage I colorectal cancer, while stage IV disease requires treatment that costs $ 48,800. Currently, only 14% of the European Union’s population has access to screening, which just shows the value of earlier screening, Maravic said.
On top of that, Sercic said that optimal use of biosimilars for just 3 molecules commonly used in cancer could save up to $ 2.9 billion in Europe. “I think it’s a huge value. And I don’t know if my personal perception is that not everyone is aware of the true magnitude of the potential.
The panelists suggested a series of core goals that, if implemented, would allow more frequent use of biosimilars and promote impact savings and improved quality of health care:
- “There should be no discussion. There should be a health system prioritization that says if the drugs are equivalent, you use the cheapest, ”Aapro said.
- “We should reinvest the biosimilar savings locally in a transparent and tangible way, because then everyone would be able to recognize the value of biosimilars,” said Maravic.
- “Experience and best practices between Member States will need to be shared. It is important to translate this experience into the different national parameters. And the European Commission can serve as a platform to do this, ”Sercic said.
- “Competition is something that has to be sustainable in the long run, so we have to make sure that we will always have a few players in the market to ensure that this competition takes place,” she added.