Back to school on biosimilars as specialist education program starts

Medical politics

27 Mar 2019

The Federal Government’s cost-saving campaign to get specialists to prescribe biosimilars instead of branded biologics will move up a gear next month with a Biosimilar Week to showcase education activities for clinicians.

Starting on April 29, the event is being run by the new education arm of the Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association (GBMA) on the back of $5 million the industry body received in funding from the Federal Government from the 2017/18 Budget.

The thrust of the campaign to specialists and pharmacists is how use of biosimilars will help underscore a sustainable health care system through savings of their use over the more expensive originator biologics.

Biosimilar awareness activities will include an interactive online education hub,  literature updates on biosimilar medicines and medical education for speciality groups and hospital pharmacists and video talks from Australian specialists around the use of biosimilars.

This will be followed by a national “multidisciplinary event” in August or September followed by state-based hospital education sessions at teaching hospitals around the country.

At this stage organisers are encouraging as many specialists as possible to sign up to the biosimilar week website.

According to the GBMA, the latest biosimilar education initiative has been “developed collaboratively by representatives across medical specialities, government health experts and the medicines industry”.

A spokesperson for the Association said the approach would be multi-disciplinary, with groups of specialists across rheumatology, gastroenterology, oncology and haematology setting the agenda.

She told the limbic that the aim of the education initiative was give specialists what they needed, approached in a “discussion-based manner” – the result of “hundreds of interviews with different specialists trying to understand their current perceptions and understandings”.

It is expected there will be a further announcement in two weeks’ time on the detail of the educational efforts.

Uptake of biosimilars has been reportedly low since they have first come on the market with fears of lack of equivalence around switching, among other issues.

The Federal Government had hoped its biosimilar uptake initiatives could save the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme over $330 million over five years.

But GBMA chairman Sylvain Vigneault, who also heads local generic pharma company Mylan, has said this level of savings would be impossible to achieve at current low usage levels.

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