Biosimilar dispensing backlash goes international

Former Pharmacy Guild president Kos Sclavos has criticised a backlash against the PBAC decision to allow pharmacists to dispense biosimiliar alternatives to expensive biologic medicines.

He says big pharma and other detractors should embrace the opportunity for pharmacists to make clinical decisions.

But Medicines Australia, some doctors, consumer groups and a US biologics safety group have criticised the move which comes into effect on 1 July as part of the PBS reform package.

Australia would be breaking “widely held international standards by becoming the first and only nation to allow pharmacy-level substitution of biologic medicines without physician involvement”, says the US Alliance for Safe Biologic Medicines.

Australia is not the first country to adopt the concept, says Mr Sclavos, who believes the backlash is a replication of the “antics” that occurred when pharmacists were given the authority to substitute with generic medicines.

He says it is a “strategic mistake” for the pharmaceutical industry to attack the proposed PBS change by questioning the clinical skills of pharmacists.

“The industry should be embracing pharmacists, and working with them,” says Mr Sclavos, who notes that pharmacists must adhere to PBAC advice on a case-by-case basis before dispensing a substitution.

Mr Sclavos (pictured) says criticism by the Consumer Health Forum demonstrates a lack of understanding about the issue, but he expects the organisation to “back flip”.

“There is great hypocrisy in their comments given past positions on PBS savings.

“The views of real consumers show consumers are happy to trust the skills of pharmacists regarding safe treatment choices.”