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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Who should drive the brand of medicines prescribed to Australian patients?

Health Industry Hub | October 12, 2021 |
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Pharma News: Four Biosimilars of the global blockbuster auto-immune medication AbbVie’s Humira (adalimumab), were listed onto the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS) in April 2021. However, according to the Australian Biosimilars Academy, it ignited a surge of “anti-competitive behaviour” from the company.

“Biosimilars are the bio-equivalent of some wonderful innovative and expensive breakthrough treatments, in particular, those targeting chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis,” said the inaugural Chair of the Australian Biosimilars Academy, Mr George Tambassis.

Mr Tambassis said there has been a proliferation of AbbVie-originated pro forma letters, sent by various specialists, to pharmacists and patients demanding they go back to the originator brand of Humira.

An AbbVie spokesperson told Health Industry Hub “AbbVie supports the entry of biosimilar medicines and the introduction of active ingredient prescribing, as both play an important role in supporting a sustainable healthcare system.

“There are many considerations for a doctor when selecting one brand of medicine over another including the type of injecting device, the dosage and ongoing access to patient support programs. AbbVie supports the ability for doctors to determine, in consultation with their patients, which brand of medicine is prescribed and subsequently dispensed, and as part of our commitment to Quality Use of Medicines, we provide relevant information and resources to healthcare professionals to be used solely at their discretion.

“In accordance with national pharmacy and Federal Government guidelines, AbbVie believes the option of brand substitution should be available at the discretion of the prescribing doctor, and if a doctor decides brand substitution is not appropriate, this decision should be respected.”

Mr Tambassis added “All healthcare professionals want their patients to have affordable access to the latest in breakthrough medicines. What we won’t tolerate are our patients and our doctors being deliberately confused in the name of market share domination.”

Existing PBS pricing mechanisms under the National Health Act 1953 will reduce the cost of subsidising all brands of a biological medicine if biosimilars are introduced and they generate price competition. The Government pays the same price for all brands of the same biological medicine. However, the PBS price is reduced if market competition results in significant average discounts in the price charged by pharmaceutical companies.

Ultimately, clinicians as the clinical experts retain, in consultation with their patient, the choice of which brand to prescribe despite the Biosimilar Awareness Initiative driven by the Australian Government and other organisations.


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