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Future of Healthcare

Here’s How We Can Get Prescription Drug Costs Back Under Control

With drug prices higher than ever, conversations are taking place across the nation about what sacrifices must be made to afford expensive prescription medicine. In fact, a survey conducted earlier this year by the Harvard School of Public Health found that Americans consider taking action to lower prescription drug prices more important than any other issue.

Among the ideas about how to ease this burden on American patients, we champion a simple yet proven one: Give patients access to safe, equally-effective, and cheaper alternatives in generic and biosimilar medicines.

Generic and biosimilar medicines make it easier and more affordable for people to live healthy and productive lives by:

  • Driving down the costs of existing drugs so people can afford the medicines they need
  • Increasing competition so patients and payers have a choice in the marketplace
  • Enhancing access to safe, effective drugs so more consumers take their prescriptions

The cost-savings are undeniable as, last year alone, access to these drugs generated $293 billion in savings. The impact of those savings translates to $2,254 for each Medicare enrollee and $817 for each Medicaid enrollee.

Cheaper and more accessible medicine

The mission of the Association for Accessible Medicines and its Biosimilars Council is to increase patient access to needed medicines. When we do that, patients and our healthcare system win. Our members are committed to bringing treatment options to patients through innovation and efficiency.

Generic drugs are equal to brand-name drugs in every way, but can be sold at much lower prices because of reduced development and marketing costs. Biosimilars are safe alternative versions of existing biologic medicines, which are more complex and more costly to develop. Biosimilars are approved by the FDA and have no clinically meaningful difference from the reference biologic.

Most people are familiar with generics, but biosimilars remain a new concept to many. That notwithstanding, they could save billions in the biologics sector, the most rapidly growing segment of brand-name prescription drug costs in the United States, with more than $125 billion in annual spending.

The role of biologic drugs in the healthcare system is expanding; while only about 2 percent of America’s patients use biologics, they account for about 27 percent of the country’s prescription drug spending.

Even as biosimilars’ profits swell, efforts remain to block competitors from coming to market, further extending their monopolies. The Biosimilars Council is fighting to curb these unfair practices and unleash the full cost-saving potential of biosimilar medicines.

A real-world example

Biosimilars and generics play a critical role in keeping people healthy and productive. Consider the experience of Ariel Leaty from Bloomfield, N.J., who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2014 and went through three years of chemotherapy.

“In the beginning of my regimen, the doctors gave me tons of pills and infusions designed to kill the cancer, which subsequently weakened my immune system and depleted my energy,” Leaty said. “For a time, I could barely walk or talk. After my intensive therapy, I immediately began outpatient maintenance, which meant taking six to 10 pills a day, in addition to daily infusions.”

Leaty could have been paying over $200 a bottle for brand-name prescription medications, however, her mother, a pharmacist, told her about how much she could save by using generic drugs, and alleviated any fears she had about using them.

“She informed me that they are exactly the same, save for the fancy name and ridiculous price tag,” Leaty said. “As of last October, I completed my treatment and am on my way to being declared ‘cured!’”

Americans have spoken clearly that they want drug prices to be brought back into check. To accomplish that goal, we need to keep medicines accessible by preserving and expanding generic and biosimilar savings.

SOURCE: The Association for Accessible Medicines, [email protected]

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