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Do Patients Choose Biosimilars?

Americans are confident in biologic and biosimilar medications’ ability to treat their condition. But many people are fuzzy on the details of these innovative drugs, new research finds.  

A national survey from the Biologics Prescribers Collaborative explored 300 patients’ knowledge of innovator biologics, biosimilars and the process of switching among them.  

Innovator biologics – the original reference drugs – and their follow-on biosimilars can have minor differences in chemical makeup, but those differences are not clinically meaningful. Biosimilars can expand patients’ treatment options by providing safe, effective choices, often at lower prices. 

Lots of Treatment Options, But Limited Understanding 

Among surveyed patients: 

  • 46% had been receiving an innovator biologic or biosimilar for 1-5 years 
  • 50% reported knowing “a little” about biologics and biosimilars 

Surveyed patients admitted some gaps in knowledge on the topic. More than half (55%) did not know that biosimilars that are designated “interchangeable” can be swapped with their innovator biologic at the pharmacy level without the prescribing clinician’s involvement.  

The majority of patients (68%) said they would turn to their doctor if they wanted to learn more about innovator biologics and biosimilars. 

Medication Switching 

The survey also explored patients’ experiences and opinions about switching among medications. 

Two-thirds of respondents have taken a biosimilar, and 84% were switched from an innovator biologic to a biosimilar. A doctor’s suggestion is the primary reason surveyed patients switch from an innovator biologic to a biosimilar.  

When asked, hypothetically, if they would switch from an innovator biologic to a biosimilar when given the option, respondents were divided.  

  • 29% said they’d take whichever option was recommended by their doctor 
  • 27% said they’d choose an innovator biologic because they consider it more effective 
  • 22% said they’d choose a biosimilar because it’s less expensive 

Cost proved to be a major factor. Among surveyed patients, more than one-third said they would switch if it saved them money. 

The findings indicate a clear opportunity to educate patients about biologics and biosimilars. As more medication options enter the marketplace, greater education will empower more patients to make informed treatment decisions.  

To learn more, read “Patient Choice.” 

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