What’s holding back physicians from prescribing biosimilars? Four specialties weigh in


While most providers think that biosimilars will positively impact care, few feel that the economic benefits of biosimilars to date are enough to motivate switching.

a partial photo of a doctor writing on a prescription pad Fuse/Thinkstock

In a new survey of over 350 dermatologists, gastroenterologists, ophthalmologists, and rheumatologists, clinicians shared their opinions on the rapidly evolving landscape of biosimilars, detailing top concerns about prescribing these medications and how they presently use biosimilars in clinical practice. Across all specialties, providers said they would be most likely to prescribe biosimilars to new patients or if a patient’s health plan mandated the switch. Most providers listed concerns about biosimilar efficacy and lack of economic benefit as the main barriers to adoption of biosimilars in clinical practice.

Cardinal Health, a health care services company based in Dublin, Ohio, conducted the surveys from July through October 2022.

Rheumatologists want cost-savings for patients

2023 is gearing up to be a big year for biosimilars for inflammatory diseases, with at least eight adalimumab biosimilars entering the market in the United States. Amjevita, manufactured by Amgen, was the first to become commercially available on Jan. 31. Out of 103 surveyed rheumatologists, 62% said they were very comfortable prescribing biosimilars to patients, and 32% said they were somewhat comfortable. Providers said they would be most likely to prescribe a biosimilar to new patients (40%) or if biosimilars were mandated by a patient’s health plan (41%). Nearly one-third (31%) of rheumatologists said that a discount of 21%-30% from a reference product would be necessary to consider switching a patient to a biosimilar.

There are several reasons why a rheumatologist might be wary of switching patients to biosimilars, said Marcus Snow, MD, chair of the American College of Rheumatology’s Committee on Rheumatologic Care. “Rheumatologists will always express concern about changing medications that work well for their patients. It is not ideal to ‘force switch’ to a different product, even if it is almost identical,” he told this news organization in an email. “Also, we must remember that a patient on a biologic has failed traditional medications, which speaks to the struggle a patient must endure to get their disease under control. Fail-first situations can cause a rheumatologist to be initially resistant or hesitant to any changes.”

The top concerns among rheumatologists about prescribing biosimilars were medication efficacy (36%), lack of economic benefit (24%), and evaluating when to prescribe a biosimilar versus a reference product (17%). For adalimumab biosimilars, rheumatologists said that interchangeability – a regulatory designation where a biosimilar can be automatically substituted for its reference product at the pharmacy – and citrate-free formulation were the most important product attributes. Sixty-four percent of providers also noted that patient out-of-pocket cost would be key when deciding to prescribe an adalimumab biosimilar.

“There needs to be a true reduction in price, to change providers’ opinions on the economic benefits of biosimilars – in the system generally and for the patient,” Dr. Snow said. “Things will get there eventually, but it is not there yet, based on the list prices we see for some biosimilars.”


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