Survey finds stakeholders lack understanding of biosimilars

June 27, 2016

It is important to look at how the introduction of biosimilars in the United States may affect your business and your stakeholders and plan for those changes accordingly, according to a new report.

There is a general lack of understanding of biosimilars among key opinion leaders, according to new research.

Related: Assesing the impact of biosimilars on cost, quality

Biosimilars are biologic medicines that are highly similar to already-approved biologic products and have no clinically meaningful differences in terms of safety, purity, and potency.

Findings from a 2015 survey conducted by APCO’s Return On Reputation (ROR) insight among healthcare opinion leaders (opinion leaders were screened from random sample panels of the general public and represent the top 10% of the general population in terms of news consumption, voting behavior and civic engagementand healthcare providers) found that while the majority (59%) of key opinion leader's believe that biosimilars and biologics are similar to each other that still leaves one-third who are “neutral.” There is also a distinct difference in level of understanding between healthcare providers and opinion leaders; 36% of healthcare providers say biosimilars are very similar compared to only 15% of opinion leaders.

There’s a lack of understanding about various properties of biosimilars, especially relating to ingredients and production method, according to the report. Less than one-third confirm the difference between biosimilars and biologics completely matches their understanding of biosimilars and even fewer indicate their understanding that biologics made by different manufacturers are different from each other (18% say it completely matches understanding).

“Access and pricing of biopharmaceuticals are important issues for all managed care executives,” according to Iris Shaffer, director, APCO Worldwide. “Because there are so many unknowns about biosimilars in the United States and as the APCO ROR research found, a general lack of understanding, the findings are pertinent because they let us know that there is an opportunity to fill a gap in understanding. Now is the time for your organization to consider if and how biosimilars will be a part of your organization’s healthcare access strategy.” 

With such a large gap in understanding, biosimilars marketing may influence healthcare decisions for many stakeholders, according to Shaffer. She explains that given the perceived lack of difference between manufacturers, biosimilar consumers may support the products which names they recognize.

“So as biosimilars enter the market and market share begins to fracture, manufacturers will move quickly to gain product name recognition,” she says.

This gap in understanding starts with education, according to Shaffer.

“That may mean educating your own employees about biosimilars; or it may mean advocating for your point of view about biosimilars to your other key stakeholders, from physicians to patient advocacy groups,” she says. “If your organization has a stake in the success of biosimilars, you have an opportunity right now to contribute to the dialogue and make an impact.”

Biosimilars have been available in Europe for about 10 years and they have been slow to have much of an impact there, according to Shaffer.

“That said, it is important to look at how the introduction of biosimilars in the United States may affect your business and your stakeholders and plan for those changes accordingly,” she says. “For example, it is important to look at how aggressive PBMs and payers will be in driving biosimilar usage.”