Patient perspectives on the British Columbia Biosimilars Initiative: a qualitative descriptive study

Rheumatol Int. 2021 May 7;1-12. doi: 10.1007/s00296-021-04874-8. Online ahead of print.


In May 2019, the Government of British Columbia (BC) announced the implementation of the Biosimilars Initiative, mandating the switch of biologic (originator) drugs to biosimilars for certain patient populations in the hopes of optimizing public resources. Through this qualitative study, we aimed to identify patients' perspectives as they undergo this change. From October 2019 to July 2020, we conducted nine pre- and six post-switch to biosimilar interviews with BC, English speaking participants, who were 18 years or older, and were currently taking a biologic medication. Participants were interviewed pre- and post-switch to a biosimilar medication and interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim for qualitative analysis. Interviews were thematically analysed and major themes and sub-categories were elucidated. The themes derived from pre and post-switch interviews captured participants' anticipated or experienced barriers and enablers to the policy change. In general, the fears and apprehension of participants approaching the switch, including concerns surrounding the efficacy and safety of biosimilars, were addressed by their rheumatologist and social support circles. For the most part, participants were able to successfully manage their disease regardless of their baseline concerns about efficacy and safety. Experiences of changes in health delivery models were also observed secondary to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic amongst participants. This study is the first of its kind to characterize the patient perspective regarding the BC Biosimilars Initiative. The incorporation of the patient perspective, including adequate provider-patient communication and shared decision-making can help to inform future non-medical switching policy changes.

Keywords: Biosimilar switching; Biosimilars; Non-medical switching; Switching.