In the first of a series of interviews for the Frier Levitt Government Affairs blog, Executive Director Ron Lanton, Esq. speaks with Brian Lehman, Director, Medical Account Management and Strategic Alliances for Sandoz Inc. about everything Biosimilars – the current biosimilar marketplace, PBMs and biosimilars, and opportunities in the biosimilar marketplace.
Ron Lanton: How have recent FDA policies affected the biosimilars marketplace?
Brian Lehman: My perspective from working with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), health plans and employer groups, these stakeholders would benefit from being included in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) biosimilar education and outreach efforts geared towards patients and the providers who treat them. We included this suggestion in our comments to the FDA Notice of Hearing entitled Facilitating Competition and Innovation in the Biological Products Marketplace.
The need remains for additional FDA-driven, educational efforts to enhance biosimilar understanding among these groups. Doing so could benefit decision making on formulary and utilization management programs.
The FDA has stringent requirements and regulations for the development and approval of all reference biologics and biosimilar medicines.1 The FDA’s authority has the power to help increase payers’ confidence that a biosimilar matches the reference biologic in terms of safety, efficacy and quality via rigorous development and testing processes.
The economic impact for real-world evidence and simulation models is compelling. Approximately $100 billion worth of biologics are expected to be off patent by 2020, which present a substantial opportunity for biosimilar medicines to create savings for the US healthcare system[i]. Biosimilars may help to provide millions of patients with more affordable and accessible treatment options. They create the potential to save the US healthcare system an estimated $54 billion over 10 years[ii].
RL: What types of obstacles are there for biosimilars in the marketplace?
BL: Only 1 in 18 biosimilars in the U.S. market is currently a success story, and that’s Sandoz Zarxio® (filgrastim-sndz) – the first biosimilar to surpass its reference biologic in market share[iii]. To that end, several health systems, integrated delivery networks and payers have realized savings when switching to Zarxio – including Yale New Haven Health System, Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Healthcare System and Carolina Blood and Cancer Care[iv],[v],[vi],[vii]. Many obstacles for biosimilars in the U.S. exist along the path that begins with discovery and development; continues with the process of obtaining regulatory approval; and ends with patients accessing their biosimilar for treatment. Of those 18 FDA-approved biosimilars, only seven are available for use.
We’ve observed significant obstacles barring biosimilar medicines getting to market, which hinders patient access and is detrimental to healthcare savings.
It is beyond time that all stakeholders work together to overcome the gridlock and provide additional incentives so more patients can access these important medicines.
RL: Will doctors or PBMs be the deciding factor for how fast biosimilars make it into the market?
BL: All stakeholders play a significant role in fast-tracking the adoption of biosimilars into the US healthcare system. Actions taken by providers, professional societies, payers, healthcare plan administrators, patients and policy makers send signals back to manufactures on why it is important to continue investing in biosimilars. Positive signals in support of biosimilars and removal of barriers will favorably impact how the US is able to realize savings in healthcare spending and improvements in patient access – now and for the future.
In order to increase support of biosimilars, we need a multi-channel approach focused on amplifying education. The FDA, along with professional organizations, patient advocates and manufacturers play an essential role in educating our community about biosimilars to help earn an equitable level of trust that they expect with reference biologics.
RL: With increasing political scrutiny on high-priced medications such as insulin, are there opportunities for biosimilars within this space?
BL: Yes- there is a clear unmet need for people with diabetes. Each year, 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes. Approximately six million Americans with diabetes use a form of insulin[viii]. Among adults diagnosed with diabetes, some may struggle to afford their insulin, putting them at risk of disease-related complications that drive up healthcare costs.
The good news is that the FDA released guidance to help reframe the narrative. Starting in March 2020, medicines that include insulins will be regulated as biologics versus drugs or small molecules. This will allow manufacturers to file for approval of their insulin medicines via the biosimilar similar pathway. That makes a big difference because currently it is not possible to submit an application for a biosimilar to insulin in the US – a transformative move to promote competition[ix].
We hear a lot about the problem of skyrocketing healthcare costs, but very few are doing something about it. The future of insulin biosimilars will be significant due to the increase in competition that will help bring down prices for patients and the healthcare system. Anticipating the growing needs for insulin biosimilars, Sandoz entered into an agreement to commercialize biosimilar versions of insulins used in patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. (Press release source: https://www.sandoz.com/news/media-releases/sandoz-enters-commercialization-and-supply-agreement-insulin-biosimilars). This will ultimately result in increased access, adherence and reduced complications for individuals who use insulin.
*Zarxio and Erelzi are registered trademarks of Novartis AG.
[i]GBI Research. $100 billion of revenues up for grabs for drug manufacturers by 2020 as patents for key biologics expire [press release]. March 13, 2017. https://drug-dev.com/100-billion-of-revenues-up-for grabs-for-drug-manufacturers-by-2020-as-patentsfor- key-biologics-expire/. Accessed December 14, 2018.
[ii]Mulcahy AW, Hlávka JP, Case SR. Biosimilar cost savings in the United States: initial experience and future potential. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation, 2017. Available at: https://www.rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PE264.html.Accessed February 27, 2019.
[iii]IMS Health Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Delivering on the potential of biosimilar medicines: the role of functioning competitive markets. https://www.iqvia.com/-/media/iqvia/pdfs/institute-reports/delivering-on-the-potential-of-biosimilarmedicines.
pdf?la=en&hash=7705453CF0E82EF41402A87A44744FBF8D84327C&_=1518722219951. Accessed December 14, 2018.
[iv]Evans M. Barnabas and Robert Wood Johnson sign deal to form biggest New Jersey health system. Modern Healthcare Website. Available at: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20150714/NEWS/150719965. Published July 14, 2015. Accessed October 5, 2018.
[v]Data on file. RWJBH Raw Sales Data. Sandoz Inc. March 2018.
[vi]Davio K. Oncologist sees biosimilars playing a role in the oncology care model. The Center for Biosimilars Website. Available at: http://www.centerforbiosimilars.com/news/oncologist-sees-biosimilars-playing-a-role-in-the-oncology-care-model. Published April 12, 2018. Accessed June 11, 2018.
[vii]Leber MB, Abdelghany O, Miller L. Biosimilar adoption: health system challenges and strategies for success. Poster presented at: 2016 Vizient Clinical Connections Summit, Dallas, TX, September 29, 2016.
[viii]American Diabetes Association. Fast Facts: Data and Statistics about Diabetes. Available at: https://professional.diabetes.org/sites/professional.diabetes.org/files/media/fast_facts_12-2015a.pdf. Accessed February 27, 2019.
[ix]US FDA. Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on new actions advancing the agency’s biosimilars policy framework. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm628121.htm. Accessed February 27, 2019.