House gives nod to 'biosimilar' drugs
A bill in the state House would allow the substitution of medicines that aren't identical but work substantially the same as those used to treat complex medical conditions such as cancer.Posted — Updated
Most people are familiar with generic medications, chemical copies of name brand drugs that are cheaper.
"Biosimilar interchangeables" are so close to the original drug that they are considered functionally the same.
"We allow generics to be substituted for brand name drugs, and obviously, those generics have saved patients and health plans billions of dollars over the years," said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, one of the bill's primary sponsors. "We anticipate the same savings by allowing those biosimilars to be substituted."
The bill, similar versions of which have passed in 23 other states, also requires pharmacists to notify doctors when a substitution is made.
Pharmaceutical companies have insisted on that notification provision, Dollar told the committee. Proponents of the measure say it will ensure that doctors know all of the facts if a patient doesn't respond as well to the biosimilar interchangeable medication. Others point out that the notification could raise concerns by patients who are seeing less expensive, unfamiliar medications substituted.
"It's an unnecessary regulation," said Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange.
Insko tried to amend the bill to get rid of the notification provision, but the House Health Committee rejected that change.
"My primary concern for keeping this regulation in has to do with patient safety," said Rep. Marilyn Avila, R-Wake, another of the bill's primary sponsors.
Currently there are no interchangeable biosimilar drugs on the market. There is one biosimilar that is not considered interchangeable.
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