Advancing health equity across North Carolina was a central theme at the NC Chamber Health Care Conference. The State of North Carolina, our nation, and our world depend on the latest biotechnology breakthroughs to transform patient treatment and deliver the greatest care possible. Everyone deserves the opportunity to live their best life.
I applaud job creators for their commitment in seeking health benefit plans that include high-quality prescription drug coverage to help millions of employees and their families across the state receive the medicine they need. Regrettably, ever-rising prescription drug costs for a small number of patients who require specialty pharmaceuticals has made this ambition extremely challenging to achieve, despite employers’ ongoing efforts to manage expenses while offering valuable prescription drug benefits.
Job creators play a crucial role in leveraging the latest science available in the market to reduce health care costs and increase access to treatment options that will ensure employees and their families thrive. Employers now have an innovative instrument in their drug-management toolkit to enhance their benefit plans: biosimilar pharmaceuticals. For the past decade, pharmaceutical companies have been developing this class of drugs that brings competition to the biopharmaceutical marketplace, which did not previously exist. Establishing market competition is more vital than ever in order to pay for innovations that will increase treatment options for diseases and potentially defeat future pandemics.
Although the U.S. biosimilars market is relatively new, Europeans have experienced broad access to biosimilars for nearly two decades. Similar to small-molecule generic drugs, biosimilars are less expensive alternatives to their biologic brand-name counterparts. FDA approval requires companies to demonstrate that a biosimilar is highly similar to the originator with no clinically meaningful differences in terms of safety, purity, and potency. Biologics make up most of the specialty drug costs and are a top contributor to overall rising prescription drug cost trends for many employers. The good news is that biosimilar drugs can potentially be at least 15 to 20 percent less expensive than biologics. Adopting the use of biosimilars has the potential to save billions of dollars for our health care system while in creasing access to affordable, safe, and effective treatment options for North Carolinians.
Our business community has the power to progress the expansion and utilization of biosimilar pharmaceuticals. Although biosimilars are still an evolving drug option, they present a promising new way for employers to provide high-quality, low-cost medications to their health plan participants. Business leaders who want to take advantage of delivering potentially lower-priced biosimilar options for their employees should work with their advisors to implement a prescription drug benefit that promotes the use of biosimilars. Employers should also continue to understand and monitor the pipeline of new biosimilar drugs as they become available. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins and funded by ERIC (ERISA Industry Committee) found that in 2018, employers who engaged in self-insured health coverage could have garnered up to $1.4 billion in savings.
There are several clinical management strategies employers can execute with their partners and benefit advisors that will not only enhance the quality of care for their employees and their families but will also cut costs. Biosimilars are a private-sector solution to our drug spending conundrum. Job creators provide an excellent service to our workforce, our state, and our country by advancing biosimilar utilization.
Robert Popovian, Pharm.D., MS.
Vice President, US Government Relations