WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sens. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., introduced bipartisan legislation Thursday that would enhance education of biosimilar drug products in an effort to increase competition and lower the cost of biologic medicines.
Biologics are complex products that may be used to treat serious or chronic conditions, such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and certain cancers. Biosimilars are highly similar to and have no clinically meaningful differences from brand biologic drugs, but are manufactured by different companies.
Biosimilars have great potential to reduce health-care costs, but have been slow to gain traction in the pharmaceutical market. Less than 2% of Americans use biologics, but they make up 40% of total spending on prescription drugs.
“We are not benefiting from cheaper prescription drug alternatives like biosimilars as much as we should,” Enzi said in a news release. “Biosimilars are one of the ways we can do something about health-care costs without just shifting them elsewhere in the system or implementing administrative price controls. This legislation would help increase confidence in lower-cost biosimilar products, which could drive down drug costs for Americans.”
This legislation would provide educational materials to patients and providers to help improve their confidence in the safety and effectiveness of these FDA-approved products. Improved confidence in biosimilars could lead to increased use, which, in turn, could increase health-care savings. A 2017 study by the RAND Corporation estimated the cost savings potential of biosimilars to be $54 billion over 10 years.
The bill has three main components: requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to create a central website for educational resources on biosimilars, requiring the HHS secretary to establish a database to help medical professionals easily compare data associated with biologic and biosimilar products, and establishing incentives for medical providers to learn more about biosimilars.