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The Patients Association publishes new advice on switching to biosimilars Posted 03/04/2020

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Patient advocacy group in the UK, The Patients Association, has published new information and an animated video about switching to biosimilars.

Switching from originator biologicals to biosimilars is an important strategy to achieve cost savings in health care, while increasing patient access to medicines. In Canada, three provinces have now mandated patients switching to biosimilars for certain indications [1], and in Ireland, hospitals are being offered financial incentives to do so [2].

Patients in the UK, whom this advice is aimed at, may increasingly be asked to switch to a biosimilar by their hospital. For example, many hospitals are switching from originator adalimumab (Humira), a popular anti-inflammatory drug for conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis, to biosimilar versions.

The new advice – developed under the ‘Switching to Biosimilars’ project – released by The Patients Association is aimed at patients who have been asked to switch from an originator biological to a biosimilar. The Association says it has been working together with physicians, pharmacists and patients for a year to develop these resources.

A recently released patient leaflet explains why switching is necessary, what it involves, and supports patients to ask questions of their doctor or nurse.

It details the difference between an originator biological and a biosimilar (highlighting that biosimilars are just as safe as the originator), why switching is important and what the switch involves, and offers a number of questions it could be useful for the patient to ask, e.g. will the biosimilar work in the same way, will there be side effects, and will the biosimilar be taken in the same way.

An accompanying video explains in simple terms why patients are being asked to switch from their originator biological to a biosimilar; how the change will benefit the National Health Service (NHS); and how a switch might take place.

The advice also provides a list of organizations patients can contact for more information about switching, including the NHS and various healthcare charities.

This follows the release of a similar patient video from the US Food and Drug Administration [3], which clarified what biosimilars and interchangeable biologicals are and why they are beneficial.

Conflict of interest
The Switching to Biosimilars project has been developed by the Patients Association, supported through sponsorship from Novo Nordisk and Amgen, and an unrestricted educational grant from Sanofi. No companies had any influence on the development of the materials, but they have commented on the final versions.  

Related articles
Arguments against Alberta’s plans to switch patients to biosimilars

Law and ethics of switching to biosimilars in Canada

NHS England updates its ‘What is a Biosimilar Medicine?’

1. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Ontario becomes third Canadian province to switch patients to biosimilars [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2020 Apr 3]. Available from:  www.gabionline.net/Biosimilars/General/Ontario-becomes-third-Canadian-province-to-switch-patients-to-biosimilars
2. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Irish hospitals to get incentives to switch patients to biosimilars [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2020 Apr 3]. Available from:  www.gabionline.net/Biosimilars/General/Irish-hospitals-to-get-incentives-to-switch-patients-to-biosimilars
3. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. FDA releases new information on interchangeable biologicals [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2020 Apr 3]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Biosimilars/General/FDA-releases-new-information-on-interchangeable-biologicals

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Source: The Patients Association

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