The future of biosimilars in this country is nothing if not uncertain. Most immediately, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a case that will determine the timing of the 180-day waiting period before a biosimilar can go on the market. But there are larger and longer-term issues at play as well.
The biosimilar segment of the pharmaceutical industry is on fire. Some 700 biosimilars are at some stage of development, and more than 660 companies are involved in some way in the biosimilars land rush. Still, only a handful may get on the market in the next few years.
No one knows how much of an effect biosimilars will have on oncology expenditures. Pricing and market share are in a large, opaque “to be determined” cloud. But there’s certainly potential for a major impact that could lower oncology expenditures by millions, if not billions.
The dispute centers on dueling interpretations of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act, which says a company seeking to sell a biosimilar must give the maker of the brand-name biologic at least a 180-day notice before selling its drug.
Efforts to improve patient communication must become a priority. Too often, the language we use in health care is a kind of code that serves billing and other purposes. Jargon may be an efficient and precise way for insiders to communicate, but it is impossible for patients to understand.
While coupons help individual consumers, they are also having a major impact on the insurance industry and anyone responsible for paying health care bills. Insurers and pharmacy benefit managers complain that they foil formularies and other pricing strategies designed to steer consumers to less-expensive drugs.
Insurers should consider covering new drug-delivery devices that can improve outcomes while lowering disease-specific pharmacy and long-term overall health care costs. Managing these devices in the pharmacy benefit will consolidate volume-based purchasing and capitalize on PBM strategies for improving adherence.