Tens of thousands gathered at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting June 1-5, 2018 in Chicago. The city was abuzz with chatter on topics ranging from the latest diagnostic methods to treatment strategies, biosimilars among them. The issue dominated several scientific sessions, not to mention dialogue at participants’ booths. Representatives from the Biologics Prescribers Collaborative (BPC) were present to contribute to the conversation.
Several policy issues were at the forefront of the oncology meeting, including substitution, interchangeability, and reimbursement.
Since biologics and biosimilars are made from living cells or human tissue, they have caused policymakers to consider when substitution of therapies is appropriate and what regulations are necessary to ensure patient safety. At some point in the last five years, nearly every state has considered legislation related to substitution. This shows policymakers are concerned about when and how pharmacists can substitute a biosimilar for a biologic, and about the effect that change may have on patients’ care and their pocketbooks.
Another challenging topic, interchangeability, had the nation’s leading cancer professionals debating why it matters if a pharmacist can dispense an interchangeable biosimilar for the prescribed biologic, and what this could mean for patient care.
Participants also focused on the reimbursement of biosimilars, which offer the opportunity for cost savings. For example, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released reimbursement rules, some final and others proposed. Given the newness of the rules, and with billions of dollars on the line, conference attendees wondered how payment policies impact access and choice.
Biologics revolutionized patient care, giving patients and doctors new treatment options for challenging diseases. Now biosimilars extend that horizon. And with change happening so quickly, oncology stakeholders are eager to discuss and understand the important policy topics associated with these treatments.