Oncologists’ education on biosimilar products remains a growing concern, according to a study published in Therapeutic Advances in Medical Oncology (online January 6, 2019; doi:10.1177/1758835918818335).
In recent years, there have been a growing number of oncology biosimilar products in the Food and Drug Administration approval pipeline. As biosimilars continue to enter the market, more data on oncology clinicians’ understanding of these products and information necessary prior to adoption are needed.
John W Cook, Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University (Atlanta, GA), and colleagues conducted a survey of 77 oncology clinicians from January to May 2018. Among the participants were 52 physicians, 16 pharmacists, and nine advanced practice providers. Respondents answered questions pertaining to clinician understanding, prescription preferences, and patient involvement.
Furthermore, researchers designed an in-depth interview based on multiple themes identified in the first 50 survey responses: cost, safety and efficacy, patient preference, and disease stage. Responses to survey questions dictated which participants were selected for interviewing.
Researchers found that while a majority of respondents were somewhat familiar with current developments in oncology biosimilars, analyses of open-ended definitions found that only one respondent was able to fully define a biosimilar. Approximately 74% of respondents could not give a satisfactory definition of biosimilars, and 40.3% considered biosimilars to be the same as generic drugs.
The most important factor in biosimilar prescription identified was safety and efficacy (4.51 out of 5), followed by cost differences (4.34 out of 5).
Respondents were split regarding the importance of shared decision-making with patients; 50.7% deemed it important or extremely important while 39.0% deemed it somewhat or not at all important. Similarly, clinicians were split concerning the role of pharmacists in the decision to prescribe or substitute biosimilars.
After a biosimilar is designated as interchangeable, a 40% increase in clinician prescribing likelihood was seen, authors of the study noted.
“We found, as did previous studies, that oncologists require more education regarding biosimilars before they are extensively introduced into a clinical setting,” authors concluded. “Our data also suggest that there is a disconnect between what the Food and Drug Administration and academic clinicians deem most important before a biosimilar is approved and used in a clinical setting.”—Zachary Bessette