More than ten years after the first biosimilars were authorized for use in the European Union, Belgium still experiences limited competition from biosimilars, as exemplified by low market shares. Achieving high biosimilar market shares is not necessarily a goal in itself, as cost savings are also realized by mandatory price reductions on originator medicines in Belgium. However, we believe that biosimilars play a role in ensuring the long-term sustainability of the off-patent biologicals market. It is therefore crucial to list what has been done and what is needed to support the Belgian government in establishing a policy framework for a competitive off-patent biologicals market. We provide a comprehensive overview of the Belgian biosimilar market, including existing hurdles for biosimilar use in Belgium. Based on these hurdles and supplemented with learnings from other European countries, we propose practical recommendations that can be implemented to overcome them. Several Belgian stakeholders had the opportunity to comment on these recommendations. Specifically, we suggest to evolve towards a long-term consistent, integrated policy framework via i) the creation of a proactive and transparent climate supporting a level playing field for both biosimilar and reference product, including public dissemination of how savings at the level of the Belgian healthcare system are used, ii) investment in educational activities, including raising awareness of societal responsibility, iii) enforcement of the practical implementation of public procurement law, and iv) the development of incentives for physicians, who are key stakeholders in the Belgian off-patent biologicals market.
This manuscript is supported by KU Leuven and the Fund on Market Analysis of Biologics and Biosimilars following Loss of Exclusivity (MABEL).