On January 28, The New York Times reported that biotechnology companies are actively lobbying state legislatures to limit access to biosimilar versions, i.e., “highly similar” versions of previously-approved, innovator biological products (“biologics”). According to the author, Andrew Pollack, Amgen and Genentech are proposing bills that would make it more difficult for pharmacists to substitute biosimilar versions for the innovator’s products, unless FDA determines that a particular biosimilar version is “interchangeable” with the innovator’s product.
For instance, the Virginia House of Delegates reportedly already passed such a bill last week by a 91-to-6 vote. Other bills in the works require patient consent for substitution, pharmacist notification of the patient’s physician if a switch is made, and for both the pharmacist and patient’s physician to maintain records of any such substitutions for years.
The Generic Pharmaceutical Association (“GPhA”) and insurers generally accept that biosimilar substitution for a biologic should follow similar methods as with drugs only if deemed interchangeable by FDA but find that many of the bills go further to discourage use of biosimilars. “All of these things are put in there for a chilling effect on these biosimilars,” commented Brynna M. Clark, Director of State Affairs for GPhA, adding that many of the limits “don’t sound too onerous but undermine confidence in these drugs and are burdensome.” GPhA and insurers would prefer that legislatures leave biosimilar regulation to FDA, which has been entrusted with using its regulatory prowess to determine the necessary requirements for biosimilars and “interchangeable” biosimilars, as well as when to waive those requirements based on what is know about a particular biosimilar product.