As the debate continues over which drugs plan sponsors should cover, how do patients feel about biosimilars?

According to survey data presented at Benefits Canada’s Calgary Drug Trends Summit, patients don’t want to see automatic substitutions of drugs and want to be able to make informed choices and provide consent before switching medications.

Those are among the key findings of the recent Canada-wide patient survey on biosimilars conducted earlier this year by the Consumer Advocare Network and the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders. The survey, which had approximately 300 respondents, found patients are resistant to moving off a drug they’ve stabilized on to another therapy without good clinical reason, patient advocate Durhane Wong-Rieger told participants at the Nov. 2 event.

Read: Cost, effectiveness of biosimilars touted

That’s because a biologic is very different from other drugs, said Wong-Rieger, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders.

“It’s made from a living organism and can be difficult for patients to adapt to. A different version of that drug might not work in the body in exactly the same way and could put patients at risk.”

While survey respondents were accepting of biosimilars, 88 per cent said there should be no interchangeability between biologics and biosimilars.

“We appreciate the lower cost [of biosimilars]. Whatever we can do to make drugs much more cost-effective and sustainable, we should all be doing,” said Wong-Rieger. “But let’s do it in a way that makes good sense and doesn’t put patients at risk. We’ve got to make sure we’re doing this in a way that does not sacrifice patients. We want to make sure we do this right. From a patient’s perspective, give us some time. Let’s go slower, instead of faster.”

Read: A patient perspective on access to treatments

For patients, transparency is critical, she added.

“We need to have clinical studies. We need-real world evidence. We need to have a common drug monitoring platform, with long-term monitoring. We need to be a part of those international databases. We want real-world monitoring of safety and efficacy and the ability to trace an adverse event to a specific drug, with direct patient reporting of serious adverse reactions.”

When it comes to the work of the Consumer Advocare Network and the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders, the focus is on educating patients and doctors, said Wong-Rieger. “Patients say they do what their doctor tells them to do, but the doctor has to be fully informed.”

Read more articles from the Calgary Drug Trends Conference

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