WASHINGTON — The Senate unanimously passed legislation introduced by U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) that would enhance education about 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.
“I’m pleased the Senate passed this commonsense bill to help provide information and education on these important drug products,” Enzi said. “By increasing doctor and patient confidence in cheaper prescription drug alternatives like biosimilars, we can get one step closer to driving down health care costs for Americans.”
“One of the most frequent concerns that I hear about from Granite Staters is the high-cost of medications, and we need additional awareness about more affordable options, such as biosimilars,” Hassan said. “I am glad that the Senate passed our bipartisan legislation to help increase awareness of these products, which could save Granite Staters and Americans billions of dollars.”
This legislation would provide educational materials to patients and providers to help improve 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 senators said biosimilars have great potential to reduce health care costs but have been slow to gain traction in the pharmaceutical market. Less than 2 percent of Americans use biologics, but they make up 40 percent of total spending on prescription drugs.
The bill has three main components: 1) Encouraging the Department of Health and Human Services to create a central website for educational resources on biosimilars; 2) Requiring the department to publish data to help medical professionals easily compare data associated with biologic and biosimilar products; and 3) Requiring the Health and Human Services secretary to develop and improve continuing education programs to advance provider education on the prescribing and clinical considerations of biological and biosimilar products.
Congressmen Larry Buschon, M.D. (R-Ind.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) introduced a companion bill in the House in 2019.