Education: What's needed from the patient perspective?

Although biosimilars have been around for many years, the use of these vital treatment options has been slow. One of the biggest challenges is a lack of understanding of the specific terms associated with biosimilars. The other major challenge is the belief that biosimilars are inferior products. Let's face it: the name biosimilar doesn't help this perception.

Through my work at the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, I often speak with adult patients and caregivers of pediatric patients about their treatment options, including biosimilars. These same concerns about terminology and biosimilars being less effective arise repeatedly. After hearing their concerns, I share information on biosimilars in a clear and accessible manner. I often start by explaining the terms. Then, I explain why Europe, the United States, and the world are adopting biosimilars. I work to help patients understand that biosimilars aren't inferior and that these essential treatments will increase access and reduce costs. Most of the time, their concerns are alleviated through educating them, and they are ready to consider biosimilars as a treatment option.  

Doctor talking to a patient
Regardless of country, a healthcare professional's role is essential to empowering patients and their caregivers, especially regarding biosimilars.

Regardless of country, a healthcare professional's role is essential to empowering patients and their caregivers, especially regarding biosimilars. Recognizing that time with the healthcare team is often limited, Act4Biosimilars has made education critical to its Mission. Healthcare professionals in various roles, from physicians, nurses, physician assistants, or pharmacists have access to the Act4Biosimilars Action Plan which includes strategies for ensuring the adoption of biosimilars increases by 30 percentage points in 30 countries by 2030. 

Here are a few tips to support the healthcare community in providing biosimilar education.

First, healthcare professionals are encouraged to provide education understandable for patients from government agencies or local advocacy organizations. These resources are readily available to support you and your practice. You can find links to resources like the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)’s factsheet here or materials from my organization, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, here. In addition to government resources, many countries have disease-specific advocacy organizations. Get engaged with these groups, look for well-referenced resources, and leverage their materials in your office or clinic. Or provide patients with resources to take home in print form, QR codes, and other communications tools like the Electronic Medical Records or internet. 

When starting a biosimilar conversation, empathic listening is an excellent place to begin – understand the patient's concerns, fears, and current knowledge or educational background.  

Then, select resources and education to share with the patients and their caregivers:

  • Consider if the patient is starting a new treatment or switching to a biosimilar; tailor the education to the patient and their needs.
  • Be sure these resources are accessible in the local language. 
  • Ensure the text uses simple words and visuals to explain critical concepts (health-literacy sensitivity).
  • Provide the patient with definitions of complex terms like interchangeability or extrapolation. 
  • Determine the patient's or caregivers' preference for learning. Resources are available to address any learning style, from short-format videos to audio programs to reading brochures and webpages.
  • Ensure the resources used are unbiased and present their country's national policies related to biosimilars. 
  • Look for resources with references to ensure they reflect the latest evidence and information.

I hope these tips help you choose the educational resources to support your patients in starting or transitioning to a biosimilar. 

Laura D Wingate

Executive Vice President, Education, Support & Advocacy
Crohn's & Colitis Foundation

Laura Wingate