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Hubrecht: Saving Money on Biologic Medicines

By Rep. Tila Hubrecht, R-Dexter

In recent years, biologic medicines have been at the forefront of cutting edge research in the biomedical field helping us to find new treatments and even cures for chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and even cancer. These medicines have a complex molecular structure grown from living cells. They have become more commonly used as time has gone on. To this point though, biologics have not been able to be substituted with an interchangeable biosimilar medicine in Missouri. Biosimilar medicines have a molecular structure similar to biologics with the same intended goal but are not exactly the same as the original biologic.

Because biosimilar medicines are not identical to their original biologics, a patient could react differently to them. To accurately diagnose patients, doctors want to know exactly what biological drug is dispensed to their patients at the pharmacy. The Missouri Pharmacy Practice Act is being updated to require that prescribers and pharmacists work together to ensure patient records contain exactly what has been prescribed. In order to alleviate the wait time on receiving these prescriptions, this information would not have to be shared until after the prescription is dispensed. Biosimilar medicines would expand the potential patient pool for these treatments exponentially.

Like generic substitutions for prescription pills, these medicines would save patients money while still getting them quality medicines they need. Having established a safe alternative to biologic medicines, the reduction in costs for patients is in the billions. The Rand Corporation projects a reduction of $44.2 billion in spending on brand name biologics between 2014 and 2024. More locally in Missouri, the passage of House Bill 1366 & House Bill 1878 is conservatively estimated to save taxpayers $5.5 million in FY2018, $12.1 million in FY2019 and even more in the future.

Biologic medicines are one of the great recent innovations in the medical field. With the legislation passed from the Missouri House, our state will stay ahead of improvements in medicine as they come in the future. One Democrat on the House floor described the bill as a unicorn bill, one of the mythical few that everyone can get behind. The stakeholders of these medications worked for the past three years to find language that would enable the pharmaceutical companies, pharmacists, insurance groups, physicians and most importantly the patient groups to come together and remove the barriers to life-saving medications facing many chronically and critically ill patients. I enjoyed working with Representative Solon to ensure bipartisan support of this legislation. Missouri is leading the way on giving taxpayers affordable, high quality medicine and we are proud of it.