The Cresting Biosimilar Wave
With 20+ biologic products experiencing US patent expiry between 2022 and 2024 and 40 FDA-approved biosimilars1, the pharmaceutical industry is fast approaching the crest of the forthcoming biosimilar wave – with multiple brands now competing for a share of this $40 billion dollar market – nearly half of which is from Humira alone2.
While biosimilar products have been on the market since 2015, they’ve not yet had the transformative change many had anticipated, and the market dynamics have more closely mirrored branded drugs than generic products. While this can be attributed to their relative complexity compared to conventional generics, the loss of exclusivity for a product as successful as Humira is prompting manufacturers, payers, physicians and patients to reconsider the role of biosimilars in patient care, and raising new questions about attitude and adoption of these products.
It’s not enough to just market biosimilars – physicians are tired of generic promotional content. Instead, biosimilar brands need to provide targeted, personalized support that delivers information on efficacy, safety, formulary coverage, and eligibility at the precise moments in the care journey when that information is most relevant to treatment decisions.
Examining the Barriers to Biosimilar Switching
Physicians and patients are long used to switching from conventional medications to their generic versions, with lower costs being the reason in 60% of cases, according to a recent survey by OptimizeRx. But the scientific nuances of biologics and biosimilars can create hesitancy to switch a well-managed patient to a new drug – even if the clinical data shows comparable efficacy and safety. This is especially true since many biosimilars coming to market did not invest in the costly and timely additional studies necessary for interchangeability designations – which means that physicians need to actively prescribe a biosimilar in the majority of cases.
According to research from Cardinal Health, physician attitudes and openness to biosimilars varies by specialty, and even where physicians are comfortable with biosimilar prescribing, the data reveals a gap between physicians’ general comfort and their willingness to switch their patients, as well as notable concerns about efficacy. A 2022 survey review published in the American Journal of Managed Care also suggests that physicians are likely to be hesitant to switch patients to a biosimilar for non-medical reasons, and more likely to prescribe biosimilar versions patients newly starting biologic therapy – especially as the expected cost savings and economic benefits have not fully materialized.
Implications for Biosimilar Brand Marketing Approaches
For biosimilar brands, the challenge of bringing their product to market is twofold. It’s critical to raise HCP and patient awareness of biosimilar availability, eligibility criteria, safety and efficacy – similar to a traditional “branded” product launch. But biosimilars are also competing with their reference products, similar to generic launches, and without the clear economic incentive to switch or prescribe for a new patient – and an inability in most cases for pharmacists to change from the reference product to a biosimilar when the prescription is being dispensed. Furthermore, biosimilar brands may not have access to the budget, sales force, and other resources available to novel drug launches. The result of these market factors means that biosimilar brands face an extra educational lift compared to novel drugs or traditional generics – they not only need to raise general brand awareness, but they also need to build trust in their efficacy and safety data with physicians that are hesitant to prescribe a less familiar type of product.
To address these challenges, it’s critical that biosimilar brands’ HCP marketing strategies combine personalized, education-focused content with cost-efficient, timely information delivery. It’s not enough to just market biosimilars – physicians are tired of generic promotional content. Instead, biosimilar brands need to provide targeted, personalized support that delivers information on efficacy, safety, formulary coverage, and eligibility at the precise moments in the care journey when that information is most relevant to treatment decisions.
Engaging and Educating at the Point-of-Care
Today’s digital, point-of-care solutions allow biosimilar brand to take a cost-effective, data-driven approach to identifying and engaging providers at these key moments.
By drawing on the data available in the EHR and other sources to turn patient profile triggers (ICD-10, NDC, etc.) into prioritized NPI target lists, applying artificial intelligence to predict future patient eligibility, and factoring in real-time data on physician channel preferences, these digital solutions align specific information to specific care situations, and deliver that content where HCPs are mostly like to value it. The result is the precision and personalization need for effective, relevant physician communications that help HCPs make the best care decisions for their patients, while also increasing comfort and familiarity with new biosimilars.
Interested in more insights on HCP awareness and engagement with biosimilars? Download the latest infographic from OptimizeRx to learn more, as well as discover the three questions every biosimilar brand should be asking.