On March 23rd, ASBM conducted an hour-long presentations entitled “Biosimilars: New Choices, New Challenges” for a group of patients and healthcare providers in St. Louis, MO.The presentation was given at a hospital complex in downtown St. Louis which includes Barnes Jewish Hospital St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Shriner’s Hospital for Children.
The program began with ASBM Chairman Harry L. Gewanter, MD outlining for attendees the basic science of biologics and biosimilars, including the differences between biosimilars and chemical generics. Dr. Gewanter then provided a physician’s perspective on issues such as the need for distinguishable naming of biologics, and the need for pharmacist-physician communication in the event of a biosimilar substitution.
Following Dr. Gewanter was ASBM Advisory Board Chair, University of Arizona professor of pharmacy Philip Schneider, who provided a pharmacist perspective on biosimilars. Dr. Schneider also emphasized clear product identification as critical for biologics, including biosimilars, referencing survey data showing support among pharmacists for distinct names. Dr. Schneider also examined the issue of biosimilar labeling, citing survey data that show many providers want more transparent and informative labeling than is currently required by the FDA. Finally, he outlined how many states, including Missouri, are crafting biosimilar substitution legislation that addresses the need for physician-pharmacist communication.
The final presentation was from ASBM Steering Committee member Andrew Spiegel of the Global Colon Cancer Association, who provided a patient’s perspective. Mr. Spiegel expressed optimism about the new choices and lower costs biosimilars will provide. Yet he stressed the need to maintain transparency in their approval process, and to keep treatment decisions- including the decision to switch- the purview of physician and patient rather than a third party.