posted by Alicia Caramenico
on June 8, 2016
Health plans welcome the introduction of generic biologics, or biosimilars, as a way to give patients quicker access to more affordable medicines.
Previous research suggests a robust biosimilars market has the potential to promote patient access to treatments while keeping health coverage affordable. For instance, 11 biosimilars already approved for sale in Europe and elsewhere would save approximately $250 billion in U.S. health care spending from 2014 to 2024.
However, a common pharmaceutical practice is preventing biosimilars from delivering significant savings to the U.S. health care system and its patients. The trend among pharmaceutical companies to hike the prices of brand name biotech drugs before generic competition arrives is forcing the makers of biosimilars to set their prices higher, as the Wall Street Journal has reported.
As the entry of biosimilar versions of Humira neared, AbbVie increased the list price of the branded biologic eight times by a total of 73 percent, over three years, the article noted. Because of such pricing practices, the overall health care system as well as the consumers who need these important therapies won’t reap the much needed savings from biosimilars.
In addition to driving other drug prices higher, biologic price hikes make health coverage more expensive for all consumers. To cover the ever-increasing cost of Humira, Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan (CDPHP) had to raise 2016 premiums by an average of $16.52, CDPHP’s chief pharmacy officer told the WSJ.
Like other generic medicines, biosimilars should deliver competition for biologics, which would in turn drive value for consumers. But as branded biologic drug costs continue to soar, biosimilars won’t be able to fulfill the promise of greater access and affordability.