Jun 12, 2019 - Health

Congress lukewarm on helping biosimilars

Illustration of a giant pill casting a shadow over Congress.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congress isn't feeling much urgency to help the fledgling market for biosimilars.

Why it matters: Advocates say that they need lawmakers' help soon, or else drugmakers will see biosimilars as a lost cause and the system will lose its only check on the cost of biologics.

Where it stands: Congress' ideas to enhance competition among traditional generics wouldn't do much for biosimilars — less than a dozen of which are on the market.

  • “Different things need to be done for biosimilars because it’s a new industry," said Juliana Reed, president of the Biosimilars Forum.
  • Lawmakers "don’t seem to appreciate" how many of the drugs have been stymied by intellectual property challenges or backwards commercial incentives, said Chip Davis, president and CEO of the Association for Accessible Medicines.

What they're saying: Both groups want Congress to alter Medicare's financial incentives to help bolster biosimilars. Davis' group also wants it to speed up patent lawsuits.

The other side: "It’s unclear that anything actually needs to be done on biosimilars as the law is still in its nascent stages," said a senior GOP aide working on drug prices.

Where it stands: The Senate health committee recently proposed accelerating the biosimilar approval process. Sens. John Barrasso and Sherrod Brown also said they'll have bills coming soon.

Yes, but: "I guess the answer ought to be yes. But I don’t know all of the issues yet," Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said when asked about increasing biosimilar competition.

Go deeper: How cheaper drugs are kept off the market

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