Launches discussion about the future of biosimilars in Italy

Results from a survey of 470 European physicians conducted by the Alliance for Safe Biologic Medicines (ASBM) set the stage for a stakeholder meeting at the Italian Ministry of Health to discuss the future of biosimilars policy in Italy. The October 20th event, titled “Biosimilars in Clinical Practice: Does Italy Need to Act” included regulators from the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA), physicians from that country’s nephrology and dermatology societies, representatives from a hospital pharmacist organization, patient activists, and the Italian biotechnology trade association.

ASBM Executive Director Michael Reilly for the first time revealed the Italian responses from the ASBM survey that had previously been the subject of a whitepaper in the Journal of the Generics and Biosimilars Initiative, available here.

“The perspectives of those most familiar with the clinical use of biologic and biosimilar medicines – Italy’s physicians – offer invaluable guidance to its regulators as they craft biosimilar policy for Italy’s physicians, pharmacists and patients,” said Reilly.

The data demonstrated that physicians in Italy have a better understanding of biologics and biosimilars than physicians from the other four European countries surveyed (i.e., France, Germany, Spain and the U.K.) but also makes it clear that there remains a strong need for additional education and information on biosimilars among Italian physicians. For example, only 26% of Italian physicians considered themselves “very familiar” with biosimilars while 17% could not define or had not heard about biosimilars before.

A major topic of discussion was clarity in the naming of biologic medicines. Due to the extreme complexity of biologics, even the smallest difference between the structure of an innovator biologic and an attempted copy can have a significant impact on a patient, including adverse events such as unwanted immune responses. Yet when reporting adverse events, 22% of physicians record only the INN, which may lead to false attribution. Additionally, 25% of physicians use only the international non-proprietary name, or INN, when prescribing biologics, which may lead to patients receiving the wrong medicine from a pharmacist.

“The prescribing practices of Europe’s physicians demonstrate biosimilars must have the additional safeguard of distinguishable names to ensure clear prescribing and monitoring,” Reilly explained. “Distinguishable naming promotes accurate identification by physicians and pharmacists, helps regulators accurately track and understand these medicines, and promotes manufacturer accountability.”

View Mr. Reilly’s presentation here.

About the Alliance for Safe Biologic Medicines
The Alliance for Safe Biologic Medicines (ASBM) is an organization composed of diverse healthcare groups and individuals from patients to physicians, biotechnology companies that develop innovative and biosimilar medicines and others who are working together to ensure patient safety is at the forefront of the biosimilars policy discussion.

For more information, please contact:

Michael Reilly
Executive Director
Alliance for Safe Biologic Medicines
Phone: 202-222-8326