Informing patients about biosimilar medicines: The role of European patient associations

Y Vandenplas, S Simoens, P Van Wilder, Arnold Vulto, I Huys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
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Biosimilar medicines support the sustainability of national healthcare systems, by reducing costs of biological therapies through increased competition. However, their adoption into clinical practice largely depends on the acceptance of healthcare providers and patients. Patients are different from health care professionals (HCPs), who are informing themselves professionally. For patients, the biosimilar debate only becomes actual when they are confronted with disease and drug choices. This paper provides a literature review on how patients are and should be informed about biosimilars, searching in scientific databases (i.e., Medline, Embase). Several large surveys have shown a lack of knowledge and trust in biosimilars among European patients in recent years. This review identified five main strategies to inform patients about biosimilars: (1) provide understandable information, (2) in a positive and transparent way, (3) tailored to the individual’s needs, (4) with one voice, and (5) supported by audiovisual material. Moreover, the importance of a multistakeholder approach was underlined by describing the role of each stakeholder. Patients are a large and diffuse target group to be reached by educational programs. Therefore, patient associations have become increasingly important in correctly informing patients about biosimilar medicines. This has led to widespread biosimilar information for patients among European patient associations. Therefore, a web-based screening of European Patients’ Forum (EPF) and International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations (IAPO) member organizations on publicly available information about biosimilars was performed. We found that the level of detail, correctness, and the tone of the provided information varied. In conclusion, it is paramount to set up a close collaboration between all stakeholders to communicate, develop, and disseminate factual information about biosimilars for patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Conflicts of Interest: This research project is funded by the Belgian National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (NIHDI). S.S., I.H. and A.G.V. have founded the KU Leuven Fund on Market Analysis of Biologics and Biosimilars following Loss of Exclusivity (MABEL). S.S. was involved in a stakeholder roundtable on biologics and biosimilars sponsored by Amgen, Pfizer and MSD; he has participated in advisory board meetings for Sandoz, Pfizer and Amgen; he has contributed to studies on biologics and biosimilars for Hospira (together with A.G.V. and I.H.), Celltrion, Mundipharma and Pfizer, and he has had speaking engagements for Amgen, Celltrion and Sandoz. A.G.V. is involved in consulting, advisory work and speaking engagements for a number of companies, a.o. AbbVie, Accord, Amgen, Biogen, EGA, Pfizer/Hospira, Mundipharma, Roche, Sandoz. P.V.W. acted as health care consultant to public and private organizations, including pharmaceutical companies and their professional associations. All other authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Funding Information:
Funding: This manuscript is supported by KU Leuven and the Belgian National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (NIHDI).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


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