Expert: Though Patients Don’t Always See Savings With Biosimilars, New Policies Could Improve Access

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Fran Gregory, PharmD, MBA, vice president of Emerging Therapies at Cardinal Health, discussed the role biosimilars are playing in the pharmaceutical market as well as in patient access.

In an interview with Pharmacy Times at the 2023 Asembia Specialty Pharmacy Summit, Fran Gregory, PharmD, MBA, vice president of Emerging Therapies at Cardinal Health, discussed the role biosimilars are playing in the pharmaceutical market as well as in patient access.

Q: How will this wave of biosimilars impact accessibility for patients who cannot afford the reference drugs?

Fran Gregory, PharmD, MBA: I think that's the key that biosimilars brings. They bring savings to the US health care system and, ideally, they bring savings to patients as well. So, just in 2021 alone, biosimilars brought $7 billion of savings to the US health care system, and that estimate is a round 13 billion since 2015, when the first one launched, so significant savings are being brought to the health care system. We sometimes get the question, though, do patients see the benefits of those biosimilar medications? And that's a difficult question to ask, and to answer because a lot of times the patient's out of pocket costs, as we all know, we're all patients at one time or another in our life, can vary depending on our benefit design, on the formulary that we chose when we signed up for our benefits, on what type of plan we have, and how our plan is set up financially. So sometimes, unfortunately, a patient might not always see the savings from the biosimilar. We hope that's the result. We want the patient to see the savings from the biosimilar. That's the goal of biosimilars is to improve access and make sure that patients can all afford their medications and that there are no challenges to overcome with that. That's not the world we live in today, unfortunately. However, I am seeing a lot of really exciting policy changes and policy proposals coming out at the White House in the last year or so that are extremely encouraging, where we're seeing biosimilars being highlighted as a way to create a more sustainable health care system in the US. So, I do think that we'll see that change over time. These changes don't take place overnight, unfortunately. But I do think the government and even commercial or private payers realize that these are products that are intended to create a sustainable health care system and we need to all work to figure out how to bring that ultimate savings to the patient, who really needs to see that.

Q: What changes are expected for the biosimilars marketplace?

Fran Gregory, PharmD, MBA: So, I think there are a few things like we like we've been talking about, kind of that evolution from medical benefit to pharmacy benefit biosimilars. So, if you look at the pipeline for biosimilars, you'll see the big Humira (adalimumab) biosimilars coming to market. Lots of rumors about how many of those will actually make it to market, but we know there will be quite a few, and we'll also see new therapeutic categories coming into play. So, not only in the immunology space with Humira and Stelara and a couple other immunology medications, but we have some multiple sclerosis products in the pipeline with natalizumab. We have a paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria product, which I never thought I would see come into the market as a biosimilar. But that's in the pipeline as well. We also have medications for bone health and, of course, more insulins and oncology products sprinkled in there as well. So, I think the marketplace for biosimilars is extremely exciting and it is a very thriving industry right now. And, you know, my hope is that with the policy changes and some things that we're seeing move forward with those types of things, we'll continue to see this industry thrive.

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