Biologics, biosimilars and PBS sustainability

Targeted Therapies Alliance media release

New information from the Targeted Therapies Alliance will help improve understanding of how reference biologics and biosimilars are made available and funded in Australia and encourage health professionals and consumers to be aware that timely availability and utilisation of biosimilars contributes to a sustainable PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme).

President of the Australian Rheumatology Association, Professor Catherine Hill says the information, including an article and podcast episode for health professionals, explains how biologics and their biosimilars are approved and funded for use in Australia, how prices are determined and reviewed over time, the impact of biosimilars on PBS sustainability and how to talk to patients about biosimilars.

“Biologics have a significant and positive impact on the treatment of many severe acute and chronic diseases in Australia,” says Professor Hill.

“After the patents on the original (or ‘reference’) biologics expire, competing manufacturers are able to develop biosimilars, which are highly similar versions of a specific reference biologic (sometimes called the ‘originator’ biologic). Once a biosimilar is listed (on the PBS), several pricing mechanisms, together with market competition, enables price reductions over time which in turn provides increased choice and availability of medicines for consumers and health professionals,” she says.

As part of the suite of resources, information for consumers called ‘Understanding biosimilars’ uses plain language to answer common questions people may have about biosimilars and biologics, including whether there are benefits to using a biosimilar medicine compared to a biologic, how to find out whether you can use a biosimilar instead of a biologic, and some questions to ask your doctor or pharmacist.

There is also a tool to support health professionals to have conversations with patients about biosimilars while avoiding ‘The Nocebo Effect’ – when negative expectations of a treatment lead to negative outcomes like non-adherence, a perceived loss of efficacy or perceived adverse events, unrelated to the physiological action of the treatment.

Dr Shane Jackson, representative of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia says “The new web tool from the Targeted Therapies Alliance acknowledges that all health professionals involved in patient care including prescribers, nurses and pharmacists play an important role in minimising the risk of the nocebo effect with biosimilars, and provides practical conversation points and commonly asked questions and answers to help guide discussions, address concerns and encourage open communication between patients and health professionals around biosimilars.”

Part of a wider three-year program to support the best possible health and economic outcomes from the use of bDMARDs and other specialised medicines, these new resources and tools on biologics, biosimilars and PBS sustainability complement existing Targeted Therapies Alliance resources focused on rheumatological and gastroenterological conditions. New tools and resources for dermatological conditions are currently under development.


About the Targeted Therapies Alliance

Funded by the Australian Government Department of Health through the Value in Prescribing – Biological Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (bDMARDs) Program Grant, and led by NPS MedicineWise, members of the Targeted Therapies Alliance include:

  • Arthritis Australia
  • Australia and New Zealand Musculoskeletal (ANZMUSC) Clinical Trials Network
  • Australian Rheumatology Association
  • Cochrane Musculoskeletal
  • Council of Australian Therapeutic Advisory Groups
  • NPS MedicineWise
  • Pharmaceutical Society of Australia
  • Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre (University of South Australia)
  • Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia

Helping consumers and health professionals make safe and wise therapeutic decisions about biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (bDMARDs) and other specialised medicines. Funded by the Australian Government Department of Health through the Value in Prescribing bDMARDs Program Grant.

The Alliance also works closely with the key dermatology and gastroenterology organisations, The Australasian College of Dermatologists and Gastroenterological Society of Australia.

The Alliance is jointly responsible for a range of evidence-based educational resources, tools and interventions to support consumers, specialist prescribers, pharmacists, nurses and governance bodies.

For more information on the Targeted Therapies Alliance, bDMARDs and other specialised medicines, visit the program website.


Media contact

Media enquiries: Stephanie Childs, NPS MedicineWise Communications & PR Manager: 0419 618 365 or [email protected]