Sonia T. Oskouei, PharmD, BCMAS, DPLA, from Cardinal Health, highlights the important role that pharmacists can play in promoting uptake and expanding education efforts for biosimilars.
Sonia T. Oskouei, PharmD, BCMAS, DPLA, is the vice president of Biosimilars at Cardinal Health.
What can pharmacists do to help promote biosimilar uptake?
So, pharmacists are really well positioned to serve as champions for biosimilars into lead strategies and initiatives that could drive adoption. In fact, by supporting many different health systems and entity types, we've really been able to recognize some key themes and trends with those early adopters or those who have been more successful at adopting biosimilars. One of the most common themes we've found is that these organizations have had champions leading biosimilar efforts. More often than not, these have been pharmacists either working with the pharmacy teams or partnering with a physician champion to drive these efforts. In this capacity, they lead education efforts across the organization, not only for providers but also for other members of the health care team, including infusion center nurses, for example, to make sure they're equipped with the knowledge needed to support patients along their care journey.
Also, pharmacists can help promote biosimilar uptake by proactively monitoring the pipeline to anticipate and prepare for new biosimilar approvals. Biosimilar evaluations can really begin upon FDA approval, even if the product's not available yet. That allows you to have a proactive approach so when the product does become available, you can expedite any opportunities for cost savings.
Lastly, I want to note that pharmacists can help drive biosimilar adoption by understanding the managed care landscape. That is such a significant role when it comes to biosimilar adoption. So, understanding the payer mix and the payer policies can really help identify those viable opportunities for biosimilar utilization.
What role can pharmacists play in biosimilar education?
So, this is an area that I'm very passionate about. As pharmacists, we're equipped to play a leading role in biosimilar education. Pharmacists are the medication experts, and they're really positioned to be the source of truth and education to help develop clinical confidence when it comes to biosimilars. We know with the development of this new approval pathway through the FDA, for biosimilars, there's really a shift in how these biologic medicines are being evaluated once they're approved. The regulatory wait now went to more of the physiochemical characterization of these molecules vs clinical studies that, I would say, are more traditionally relied upon. Again, this is an area [in which] pharmacists can really help drive the understanding of the scientific principles associated with biosimilars to help gain familiarity and competence with these products.
Another role that I would say pharmacists could really play when it comes to education is to continuously monitor and leverage the international experience of biosimilars. So, the [European Union], for example, is the most seasoned user of biosimilars. This year, in fact, they're celebrating 15 years of biosimilars use with over 2 billion patient-days of experience. So, they have robust data and real-world evidence that can be leveraged to be part of our toolkit for education in the [United States].
The last point I'll highlight, when it comes to the role of pharmacists for education, is really driving and supporting the patient education experience. So, that could be from creating counseling points at the appropriate literacy level and making sure that all the health care providers and team members are equipped with the education to make the patient feel comfortable and accepting of the biosimilar along their care journey.
A key point when it comes to the patient education: The education really can help prevent any potential negative outcomes that may be the result of the patient's perception of what the treatment is doing vs the action of the treatment itself. That's referred to as the nocebo effect. Again, really highlighting the significant role that pharmacists can play when it comes to education.