Why it matters
Biosimilar cancer medicines present a necessary and timely opportunity for patients in Europe. A highly similar copy of an off-patent biological medicine which is already available on the market under a different trademark, biosimilars may increase access to medicines by improving the financial sustainability of our healthcare systems. Increased availability of effective biosimilars translates directly into driving down the costs of biological medicines as the market becomes more competitive and potentially allowing more cancer patients to access the medicines they need.
The safety of biosimilars in the EU is assured by the European Medicines Agency, and their availability in countries depends on the company and national authorities’ decision. Currently, there is an inconsistent approach to biosimilars across Europe, and while pricing policies and instruments to enhance the uptake of generics are advanced, countries appear to be struggling to find the most appropriate approach for biosimilar medicines. As many more biosimilars for cancer treatment are expected in the coming years, ECPC is becoming increasingly engaged in the topic, education and policy perspectives.
“In the EU alone, switching to biosimilars is estimated to save up to €33.4 bn. by 2020, with potential savings even higher as biosimilars are introduced to markets where the reference drug is too costly.”
What ECPC adds
ECPC believes in the potential of biosimilars to reduce disparities in access to biological cancer medicines and improve survival rates across the EU. The switching and substitution still present a challenge, and ECPC strongly believes that patients must have an active role in the decision-making concerning their treatment. ECPC presented these challenges at the 4thStakeholder Conference on Biosimilar Medicines in 2018 organised by the EMA and the European Commission, stressing that patients must be prescribed the safest and most efficacious treatment possible and be closely monitored at all times.
The decision on whether to allow interchangeable use and substitution of the reference biological medicine and the biosimilar is taken at national level; ECPC will be working to support our members in advocacy efforts on this matter. ECPC has contributed to the EMA patient education materials, partnered with Medicines for Europe to engage with other disease areas and patient communities where biosimilars have been available for longer, and joined efforts with eCancer to develop a Biosimilars Patient Education Portal. This enables ECPC to build the capacity of cancer patient organisations in biosimilars at this crucial period and engage more actively in policy discussions.