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    Pharmacists: Key Players as Biosimilars Enter the Market

    Pharmacists will have a central role in educating about biosimilar drugs.

    As biosimilars become more prevalent, pharmacists will play a key role in educating physicians, nurses, and patients about the use of these new options. Drug Topics recently talked with Julie Rubin, PharmD, Director of Clinical Services at CompleteRx, a health-systems pharmacy management, consulting, and operations services company, about the emerging role pharmacists will play in the exciting new field.

    DT: There has been a lot of buzz in recent years about the use of biosimilars and the potential they have to lower health-care costs. What is the status of biosimilars now? Have they started to play a role in the market?

    Rubin: Actually, yes. It’s slow to come, but we are definitely seeing some change in the market. There are about five to six that have been approved in the United States. In the hospitals [CompleteRx works with], there are two that we use quite frequently and we’re actually now waiting for some others to get released.

    Biosimilars to Enbrel and Humira have been approved, but we don’t think we’ll actually see them on the market ... until 2018.

    DT: As more biosimilars enter the market, what role do you believe pharmacists can play in educating health-care providers about the use of biosimilars?

    Rubin: Our physicians are kind of leery. They get really used to the medications that they’ve prescribed and if their patients are stable, they are concerned about switching them to another agent. So as these new biosimilars become available, it’s important that the pharmacist takes some time to [understand]who is it applicable to, and what diseases, and what patients, so that they can communicate good information to the physicians and make them more comfortable to switch products.

    DT: What makes pharmacists uniquely positioned for this task?

    Rubin: Pharmacists are unique because they are the person at the table who is looking at the literature, who has that liaison role. They talk to so many different groups.

    They do quite a bit of literature reviews themselves, as I do. There’s always a pharmacist representative on pharmacy and therapeutic committees in the hospital to leverage new agents as they become available, [to decide] when they make good clinical sense, and when they are cost effective for the patient as well as the hospital. So, it makes us unique.

    [Pharmacists] are also very good communicators who can speak to the patient and tell them about the change.

    DT: What do you see as the biggest challenge for the health-care industry as the new forms of drugs are introduced?

    Rubin: think the physicians are scared, and nervous, about switching patients who are currently stable on these medications. For most of these medications sometimes, it also will take time to get them to an adequate dose for therapeutic effect for adequate response level.

    Up next: What do physicians in your area need to know?

    Jill Sederstrom
    Jill Sederstrom is a Contributing Editor

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