Generics versus biosimilars: pricing and usage-enhancing policies

Biosimilars/Research | Posted 23/02/2018 post-comment0 Post your comment

In Europe, pricing and demand-side measures for generic medicines are widely implemented and have undergone evaluations [1-4].  However, when it comes to biosimilars, the policies implemented by European countries are less well known and explored.

A recent paper has surveyed the policies implemented for pricing and promoting the use of biosimilar medicines across countries in Europe and internationally. It explores the similarities and differences between biosimilar and generic policies [5].

Members of the Pharmaceutical Pricing and Reimbursement Information (PPRI) network completed a survey containing questions relating to the status of generic and biosimilar medicines policies. The focus of the survey was on policies for biosimilar medicines, but it also contained questions relating to generic medicines policies, so that the differences between policies for the two medicine groups could be explored [5].

It emerged that the most common method for pricing generic and biosimilar medicines is to set their prices at a defined percentage below their originator price. Out of 40 European countries, Canada and South Africa, 30 used this method for pricing generics and 15 used it for pricing biosimilars. In all but six of these countries, the required difference between originator and biosimilar medicine price, was less than for generics.

When it comes to other specific pricing policies, in many countries tendering procedures are used for off-patent medicines. These appear to be effective in generating savings for payers. However, in many cases biosimilars have only recently been included in tenders and in most cases these are hospital tenders and they have been rarely applied to the outpatient sector. This is in line with the results of the first European Biopharmaceutical Enterprises (EBE) study on pricing and reimbursement policies for biological medicines [6].

The practice of substitution refers to the dispensing of one medicine instead of another equivalent and interchangeable medicine at the pharmacy level without consulting the prescriber. It was revealed that generics substitution is in place in 37 out of 42 of the surveyed countries. This is in keeping with finding from the second European Biopharmaceutical Enterprises (EBE) study [7] and Pfizer’s survey to investigate pharmacy-mediated substitution [8]. However, substituting with biosimilar medicines for an originator biological medicine is not applied widely at pharmacy level. This is only seen to occur in some countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

Overall, the study has revealed that pricing policies and instruments to enhance the uptake of generics are advanced. However, work needs to be done to see the same uptake success with biosimilars and an appropriate approach needs to be more widely adopted.  

Editor’s comment
Readers interested to learn more on pricing of biosimilars are invited to visit to view the following manuscripts published in GaBI Journal:

Pricing of biosimilars in Saudi Arabia

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