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New biosimilar guide for pharmacists in Australia Posted 24/05/2019

During the Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association’s (GBMA) Biosimilar Week, Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, introduced Biosimilar Week 2019 along with the launch of the Biosimilar Hub, which included a set of specific guidelines geared towards pharmacists.

The GBMA’s Biosimilar Week took place on 29 April to 3 May 2019. The event featured the launch of the 2019 Biosimilar Education Program for healthcare professionals, which was developed collaboratively by representatives across medical specialities, government health experts and the medicines industry. The programme was co-ordinated by GBMA Education, the educational arm of the GBMA, with funding from the Australian Government.

Biosimilar Week was designed as an introduction to a comprehensive three-year programme on the best use of biosimilars. It was supported by an AU$5 million Biosimilar Education Grant from the Australian Government.

In addition, the GBMA launched the Biosimilar Hub, which includes specific guidance for patients, prescribers and pharmacists. The guidance suggests that the savings accrued from biosimilars use ‘could be reinvested into other areas of the Australian healthcare system such as expanded access of existing biological medicines or funding new healthcare treatments’.

In Australia, biologicals or biosimilars deemed substitutable at the pharmacy level by including a notation in the official Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule known as an ‘a’ flag [1]. These can be dispensing by pharmacists after a compulsory consultation with the patient. When a biosimilar is ‘a’ flagged the pharmacist does not have to consult the prescribing doctor for approval when substituting it for a biological. However, this can only occur if the prescriber has not checked the ‘brand substitution not permitted’ box on the prescription.

As well as educating pharmacists about biosimilars, the guide also suggests that pharmacists can also encourage patients to retain brand and batch number of medicines for future healthcare interactions.

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1. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Australia’s PBAC recommends substitution of biosimilars [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2019 May 24]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Biosimilars/General/Australia-s-PBAC-recommends-substitution-of-biosimilars

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Source: GBMA

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