Less Bills for Pills

March 2, 2012

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Do you pay outrageous amounts of money for your medications?  The FDA just issued guidelines that will allow drug companies to make duplicates of certain medications called biotech drugs.  The result of this will be increased market competition and decreased cost for medications.  Biotech drugs are expensive, injectable medications.  Prior to the recently developed FDA guidelines, biotech companies claimed that their drugs could not be duplicated due to their high-tech nature.  Since they are made from living cells, it would be impossible to create an effective duplicate, they argued.  However, under Obama’s administration, the FDA was required to develop a system for approving the efficacy of “biosimilar” drugs.  The guidelines allow biotech industries to have new biotech drugs on the market for only 12 years without any market competition.  Then, after 12 years other companies can produce a similar product.  However, the biosimilar drugs must pass certain requirements.  The most important qualification is that rival medications will need to be proven through testing to function the same way as the original medication.

It is estimated that with competition for medications on the market, the US government will save $25 billion dollars in health care costs over the course of the next 10 years.  Roche’s Avastin is one specific example of a biotech drug that could be potentially duplicated.  It currently costs over $100,000 dollars for a year’s supply of this cancer drug.  It is unknown exactly how much a biosimilar counterpart drug would cost, but competition in the market would certainly facilitate decreased cost.  In Europe, where biosimilar drugs have been allowed for several years, they are usually 20-30% cheaper than the original medication.  This increase in market competition is a positive development for the US populace because it will keep our medications reasonably priced.

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