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New initiatives needed to promote biosimilar prescribing — Prof Barry

Online reimbursement application systems and incentivised prescribing need to be considered to promote prescribing of biosimilars, Clinical Director of the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE) Prof Michael Barry has told the Medical Independent (MI).

Speaking to MI following his address at the recent Access to Medicines Ireland annual conference in the RCSI, Prof Barry also called on the HSE and the Department of Health to show leadership in promoting the use of biosimilars.

“Well, I think we are all employed by the HSE, we are HSE employees, so I think the HSE will need to push it,” Prof Barry told MI when asked about leadership in promoting biosimilars. “I think the Department of Health will need to do so as well.”

Prof Michael Barry

Prof Barry said the NCPE would soon be naming “biosimilars of first choice” for a number of drugs, which would “make things easier” for prescribers.

 “We need to make sure people are aware of that, so that they know which one is offering the best price and that there are significant price differences. And the challenge is then implementing it,” Prof Barry said.

A range of policies could be examined, added Prof Barry, who referred to incentivising biosimilar-prescribing “maybe by investing into the therapeutic area”.

“Or you could look at systems like reimbursement application systems, where if people were prescribing a particular drug, if they were prescribing anything other then the preferred [biosimilar] one, they would have to come online, apply for it and justify it, and we could say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to reimbursement. So these are the sort of things that are being discussed at the moment.”

Meanwhile, Prof Barry said reimbursing drugs that are not cost-effective has an adverse impact on other areas of the health service. He also referred to lobbying of politicians by the pharmaceutical industry as “an issue”.

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