4 April 2017

Call for more awareness on biosimilars

Drugs Pharmaceuticals

The first biosimilar medication to be listed on the PBS for dispensing by community pharmacies has aroused concerns that not enough is being done to raise awareness about the new wave of lower-cost drugs.  

The etanercept biosimilar Brenzys, available from April 1, is indicated for treatment of autoimmune inflammatory conditions in adults.   

It is the first biosimilar to be offered through community pharmacies as a self?administered therapy and can be substituted by pharmacists for the Enbrel® brand of etanercept.  

RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said it was important for patients to be empowered to make informed decisions about their health with their GPs, but doctors could use more information. 

“The RACGP has concerns around allowing pharmacists to substitute for different brands. It is important that general practitioners are kept informed of any changes to the medicines that have been prescribed to the patient,” he said. 

“The RACGP doesn’t currently provide guidance around biosimilar medicines. However, we would be interested in disseminating information about biosimilar medicines to our members.” 

Belinda Wood, CEO of the Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association, said education about biosimilar medications was needed now. 

 “Now is when we really need to ramp up the awareness issues. It feels like it’s going slowly and the handbrake is on,” Ms Wood told Pharma in Focus. 

She also raised concerns about “misinformation” about biosimilars emanating from pharma companies.  

Brenzys is marketed by MSD, which plans to launch a range of biosimilars in coming years focused on immunology and oncology.  The products will compete with originator products with a current estimated value of more than $850 million per year, the company says. 

MSD Medical Director Dr Gary Jankelowitz said the Brenzys listing was important milestone towards creating a pipeline of high-quality biosimilars with the potential to save the PBS budget.  

Rheumatologist Dr Mona Marabani said information and education would be increasingly important and careful long-term monitoring of patients would be vital as more biosimilars became available alongside the originator biologics.  

Brenzys is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoratic arthritis, plaque psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis and non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis. 

The Department of Health has published factsheets about the Brenzys listing, available at www.health.gov.au/biosimilars.    

The Health website also offers brochures and other information about biosimilar medicines.