Who chooses whether the biosimilar medicine or the reference biological medicine is used?

Page last updated: 23 March 2017

Your doctor can prescribe a particular brand of biological medicine or they can let you choose when you get your medicine from a pharmacy.  

Pharmacists can sometimes ask you if you would like to substitute the biological medicine. This means the pharmacist can give you a different brand to the one written on the prescription without calling your doctor. You can choose which brand you like, and you can discuss this choice with your pharmacist.

If your doctor wants to ensure that you receive only the reference biological medicine or a particular biosimilar medicine, they can tick the ‘brand substitution not permitted’ box when writing the prescription. If this box is ticked, by law, the pharmacist cannot give you a brand other than the one prescribed.

In public hospitals, the choice about which brand to stock is made by the hospital.

A medicines list can help you to keep a record of both the active ingredient and brand name of all your medicines. This will assist in ensuring that everyone involved in your healthcare is aware of the medicines you use. Resources to assist you in developing your medicines list can be found on the NPS MedicineWise website.

In Australia, there is no requirement for doctors, pharmacists or patients to use biosimilar medicines. You and your health care provider can choose which medicine is appropriate and which you feel comfortable with.

If you change from a reference biological medicine to the biosimilar medicine or vice versa, it is considered to be the same ongoing treatment because these medicines have been assessed to be equally safe and effective.

No. There is no difference in the price that you will pay for the reference biological medicine or for the biosimilar medicine.

The Australian health care system will pay less to subsidise the reference biological and biosimilar medicines, meaning that more medicines can be subsidised or more can be spent on other areas of health care.

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