The biologic treatment Avastin has been withdrawn from the PBS as of today and a biosimilar brand called Mvasi has been listed.

Unless metastatic bowel cancer patients pay privately to continue treatment with Avastin, they will be force-switched to Mvasi.

Biologics are made using living cells and as a result, may cause unwanted immune reactions which is why switching from an originator to a biosimilar or between biosimilars should remain a clinical decision made by the treating specialist in consultation with the patient.

Specialists and patients should have the option to choose between safe and effective biologics and biosimilars.

We’re concerned about how these decisions are being made, the lack of transparency, and that patients who are impacted most are the last to know.

Today’s PBS changes signal the erosion of patient choice, despite the Department of Health stating 'biosimilar medicines give patients access to more brand options'. 

13 May 2021

From 1 June 2021, Avastin will be withdrawn from the PBS, which means it will no longer be available to metastatic bowel cancer patients as a subsidised treatment.

This coincides with the anticipated listing on the PBS of a biosimilar brand of Avastin, removing any ‘real choice’ for many patients and unfairly penalising those who are unable to privately fund Avastin. 

It may also impact oncologists’ prescribing decisions, as cost remerges as a barrier – an unintended consequence of policy, or by design?

The introduction of biosimilars was ‘intended’ to increase treatment options, but reality suggests the impact will be the opposite.

If metastatic bowel cancer patients remain on Avastin after 1 June, they will have to pay for it.

If they cannot afford it, they will be forced to switch to the biosimilar.

There is currently no publicly available evidence to support the safety of nonmedical switching in patients with metastatic bowel cancer.

While the differences between biologic medicines and their biosimilar counterparts may be minor, even small variances in medicines and the way they are produced and administered can affect their safety and effectiveness.

Policies that directly impact patients need to consider patient circumstances and preferences.