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Keith Loria is a contributing writer to Medical Economics.
Biosimilars to Avastin and Herceptin are catching on.
Biologics are often used for the treatment and supportive care of cancer, but their high prices are pushing up the cost of cancer care even higher and contribute to the problem of “financial toxicity” — costs so high that they affect treatment adherence and therefore efficacy, in addition to laying waste to patients' finances and economic security. Biosimilars are seen as being something of an antidote to financial toxicity — perhaps not a cure but one way to mitigate the problem .
But currently, the actual use of biosimilars in oncology is inching forward, particularly when it comes to treatment drugs.
Jeffrey F. Patton, M.D., CEO for OneOncology, which is comprised of six prominent community oncology practices across the United States, says the group’s partner practices have been administering two biosimilars since they came on the market last summer.
The biosimilars, both marketed by Amgen, are Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb), whose reference product Avastin (bevacizumab), and Kanjinti (trastuzumab-anns), whose reference product is Herceptin (trastuzumab).
Patton says that both biosimilars were adopted as preferred formulary agents at partner practices as part of OneOncology’s cost effectiveness strategy and resulted in an estimated 15% savings, ultimately reducing therapeutic costs for patients as well as public and commercial payers.
“The first day that our practices could convert, they did,” Patton says. “The importance of this is on cost savings and shows the ability of community practices to be entrepreneurs and move quicker than other care delivery systems as a benefit for the patients.”
He explains that doctors are going to use whatever medicine that is most effective, regardless of cost, and most doctors don’t even think about cost when they prescribe medications. In fact, some estimates predict a cost savings of as much as $54 billion over 10 years with increased usage of biosimilar medications.
“Biosimilars is one example where providers do have a choice and can choose the less expensive medication, and that’s what we have chosen to do—embrace biosimilars where we think they are equally efficacious but less expensive,” Patton says. “In general, it’s difficult for us to bend the cost curve, but this is one place we can, so we are actively managing our practices to convert to biosimilars where appropriate.”
“Cost of medications are going through the roof,” Patton continues, “and if we as providers don’t embrace the few opportunities where we can bend the cost curve, we are going to bankrupt the system and that’s not good for anyone.”
Patton says there has been a 50% success rate in changing prescriptions over to Mvasi and Kanjinti across OneOncology’s network. “One of our practices had a 70%conversion, so while it takes time, it’s certainly being embraced across our network,” Patton says. It is fairly easy to put patients on a biosimilar when they are starting a new treatment, he notes. “For those already on a medication, we give physicians a choice whether to switch to biosimilars because switching patients is more of an operational challenge,” says Patton.
He expects further adoption going forward and as more biosimilars become available, the plan is to convert immediately.