NPS MedicineWise welcomes the changes announced in the Federal Budget 2017-18 to drive uptake and simplify the process of prescribing biosimilar and generic medicines. The move paves the way for a range of expensive medicines to become more accessible for Australians with chronic disease.
Biosimilar medicines are highly similar, lower-cost versions of biological medicines that treat a range of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. Biological medicines are complex and expensive to develop and manufacture. This translates into high prices: of the top eight PBS/RPBS drugs by total cost in 2015, five were biologicals, accounting for 12% of the PBS spend.
The Federal Government measures are designed to increase the uptake of biosimilar medicines while not removing prescriber choice. Clinicians may continue to prescribe the reference biologic with the existing level of authority; however there will be a lower level of authority needed to prescribe the more affordable biosimilar medications, making them easier to obtain.
Dr Lynn Weekes, Chief Executive Officer, said that improving uptake of biosimilars is necessary to improve access to new and innovative therapies. “The changes will support PBS sustainability, creating more headroom for accessing new therapies which is vitally important given the exponential growth in health technologies.”
“Regulation of biosimilars in Australia is highly rigorous, and prescribers and consumers can be confident biosimilars have no clinically meaningful differences in efficacy and safety when compared with the reference biological medicine.”
Dr Weekes also welcomed the proposal to make generic medicines the default option for clinicians in prescribing software systems.
“It’s great to see the Government taking steps to introduce a consistent approach to automating the prescription of medicines by their international non-proprietary name, or INN, after many years of discussion.”
“It’s important that prescriber and consumer choice remain as central tenets, but by addressing some of the systems barriers it may help to reduce confusion and improve patient safety and quality use of medicines.”
Dr Weekes adds that education will be a critically important component to help support prescribers through changes to systems. “Ensuring an emphasis on education will help prescribers and consumers navigate a potentially confusing period of change and it is extremely important to help people understand and be active partners in their medicines choices.”
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