Steve Smith, PA, MDE
As the biosimilars market heats up—and with the FDA likely to approve more of them for the US in coming months—the market will be challenged to achieve widespread physician adoption. Meanwhile, news of the FDA’s draft guidelines that exclude safety and efficacy information from biosimilars’ labels suggests that doctors may have to do their own research to ensure they’re prescribing the best and most effective choice for their patients.
To better understand how significant these obstacles may be—and the opportunities for effectively addressing them—we reached out to our digital healthcare provider (HCP) community after the FDA approval of the first biosimilar for the U.S. The insights they shared offer pharma companies that are either releasing or bracing against the introduction of a biosimilar to their branded drugs a clear roadmap for targeting, engaging, educating, supporting, and ultimately influencing physician behaviors around these new therapies. For example:
HCPs overwhelmingly believe biosimilars will provide value to healthcare. 94% agree with that statement, with the top value cited as “lower costs to patients/the health system” (35%), followed by “greater patient access to therapies” (30%) and “increased choice among prescribing options” (27%).
This suggests an opportunity to offer the education and support, through the appropriate channels, that will reach the physicians who need it most and transform general awareness into action. Digital strategies can help. Life sciences companies that include digital education tactics as part of their marketing strategy have the opportunity to create deep engagement on this relatively new topic with both independent and employed physicians—inspiring change in terms of clinical practice and prescribing behaviors.
Physicians rank the top most helpful topics in understanding biosimilars:
1. Educational information about safety, efficacy, and performance
2. Best practices for evaluating when to prescribe a biosimilar vs. a branded biologic
3. Information about lowering costs for the patient or the healthcare system, such as copay cards or vouchers (among HCPs practicing in less restrictive organizations) and Patient education tools and support programs (among HCPs practicing in more restrictive organizations)
Of course, pharma is no stranger to addressing safety and efficacy questions and concerns and should already have the tools and expertise to execute well in this area. Meanwhile, there’s an opportunity for marketers to consider a targeting strategy that moves beyond just the prescribing specialists themselves, acknowledging the role that primary care providers (PCPs) and other HCPs have in helping keep patients adherent to treatment regimens. Digital strategies offer the economies of scale that make casting this wider net a cost-effective approach.
Specialty societies were prescribing specialists’ most trusted source of information about biosimilars (25%), followed by peers (19%) and key opinion leaders (18%). 80% of prescribing specialists say they would want to learn about biosimilars through expert-led digital content.
Patients look to their doctors for health information they can trust; physicians in turn need credible clinical information so they can feel confident in the quality of care they deliver. Providing materials physicians will find most relevant through (or in partnership with) the sources they deem credible is critical. And don’t underestimate the value of online environments to offer education and drive awareness—engaging physicians in expert-led content that’s relevant to their daily practice helps life sciences companies position themselves as an educational resource.
Key takeaway: The emerging biosimilars market is ripe with opportunity for pharma manufacturers willing to approach it with a well-designed multichannel engagement plan. The findings presented here —combined with our experience engaging physicians in medically relevant content—offer a roadmap that pharma can put into place to quickly and cost-effectively capitalize on this opportunity.
To learn more about engaging physicians in the biosimilars discussion, download our free report.
Stay tuned for more insights on how HCPs perceive the current biosimilars market, and what pharma marketers can learn from these attitudes to better engage their target audiences in ways that matter.