This year, Connecticut has the opportunity to adopt legislation that would bring biosimilars to the state and lower drug costs.

In the complex world of healthcare policy, few things are as simple, as straightforward and, seemingly, “the right thing to do.”

To grasp the value of biosimilars, it’s important to understand what biologics are—medicines created in living cells similar to the way wine is produced through fermentation.

If you were to look at a biologic medicine under a microscope, you would see a large, complex molecule.

This being the case, biologics are generally delivered in liquid form and injected or infused into patients.

Cancer, Arthritis Treatments

Examples of biologics include many cancer treatments, as well as drugs like Humira (for rheumatoid arthritis).

Biologics are quite different from pharmaceuticals, which are made through chemistry. The ingredients of a pharmaceutical drug are mixed and pressed together to be administered in pill form.

Biologics are what biotech firms do. Pills are what pharmaceutical companies do.

Given the healthcare cost pressures facing consumers, biosimilars legislation cannot come a moment too soon to Connecticut.
Since today’s new medicine research and development so often involves biology and chemistry, with the end-products sometimes being biologic and other times being pharmaceutical in nature, drug companies are now more commonly referred to as “biopharmas.”

Biosimilars are to biologics as generic drug are to pharmaceuticals (although biosimilars, as the term suggests, are similar, not identical, to original products).

When the patent on a pharmaceutical drug expires, other drug companies can use the originator company’s recipe and manufacture a generic version.

Unburdened by the originator’s research and development costs, the generic manufacturer can price the same medicine at a considerably lower cost than the brand name drug.

Federal, State Action

For example, the monthly out-of-pocket cost for Metformin, a generic drug for treatment of Type 2 diabetes is $2.31, versus $43.18 for its brand name counterpart, Glucophage.

Today, almost four-fifths of pharmaceutical prescriptions are for generics.

In the highly regulated environment for new medicine approval, it took a change in federal law and action across the 50 states to give patients access to generic pharmaceuticals and the savings they afford.

Similar measures have been taken at the federal level to allow Food & Drug Administration approval of biosimilars, and 26 states have enacted laws to bring biologics to pharmacy shelves.

Biosimilars legislation will soon be before the General Assembly. Given the healthcare cost pressures facing consumers, health insurance plans and the state budget, this biosimilars legislation cannot come a moment too soon to Connecticut.

For more information, contact CBIA Bioscience Growth Council executive director Paul Pescatello (860.244.1938) | @CTBio