While in previous decades, any medical breakthrough was hailed as a major victory for altruistically benefitting humankind, advancements in patient care are minimized to a shorthand of personal impact — with health care costs and access being the buzzwords. The drug discovery pipeline will always be critically complex, and our Missouri employees involved in biopharma development can handle those pressures and have understood for a long time that cost and how it’s covered are already prominent parts of the equation.
As an industry, we are always seeking the best ways to help people — safely and effectively — and to go after those major discoveries, while also working to make medicine affordable. In February, the Missouri Senate introduced a resolution recognizing this combination of winning factors in health care delivery and outcomes. Our senators put a spotlight on biosimilar medicines as a significant already-available tool in preventing, treating, and curing disease — and, additionally important, lowering the cost of specialty medicines.
Biologics are drugs are made from living cells through a highly complex manufacturing process. They are typically injected or infused and are used to treat illnesses like cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, and more. While a large molecule therapeutic really can’t be an exact copy, a biosimilar is a close replica of that biologic medicine that is similar, but not identical, to the original medicine. Biosimilars are meant to be a more cost-effective alternative if the person needing the treatment can tolerate it and thrive on it just as well.
Besides providing more treatment options for patients, why does this matter to those of us not sick? A recent study from the Pacific Research Institute showed that if the state of Missouri’s Medicaid programs moved to just 25 percent use of biosimilars, they’d save nearly $50 million a year in drug reimbursement costs. This is a smart and fiscally responsible action for our state to take. The Missouri General Assembly was on the front-end of this opportunity in 2016 when it passed enabling legislation, now the Senate is encouraging a closer look at the adoption of these bioproducts and the benefits for both cost and access.
Well done, state leaders. I applaud the Senate for committing to take a closer look at this issue. While biosimilars may be quite complex in their make-up, making the right decision toward their expanded use in our state seems to be the right move indeed.
Kelly Gillespie, is the president and CEO of the Missouri Biotechnology Association (MOBIO).