Biosimilar Drug Approval Provides Opportunities for Pharmacists

March 9, 2015

The FDA's first approval of a biosimilar drug offers new opportunities, but pharmacists need to remain alert for the opposition that might arise.

The FDA’s first approval of a biosimilar drug offers new opportunities, but pharmacists need to remain alert for the opposition that might arise.

Few of you probably remember the days when pharmacists were often forbidden to substitute a generic drug when a physician prescribed a brand-name product. Concern about the safety of generic products made such substitution difficult. Pharmacists were successful in gaining flexibility to substitute a less-expensive product, but it was often a hard-fought battle.

As biosimilars begin to appear in the market, new tactics that will make it difficult for pharmacists to substitute a similar product will be initiated. Of course, no one wants to see patients harmed, but pharmacists’ prerogatives in handling these new products must be protected. Let’s not let protecting market share under the guise of protecting patient safety prevail.

While pharmacists will need to be educated about this new opportunity, I believe they can make appropriate professional judgments in this area of practice. The approval of Zarxio will open up new opportunities for pharmacists to work collaboratively with the health team to help patients and the health care system save money.

According to IMS Health, biotech drugs account for about 22% of yearly spending on medications in the United States. This level of expenditure means that biosimilars will receive a lot of attention, and pharmacists need to ensure they can be players in this arena by protecting their professional opportunities.