“Older Americans need to lobby their state and federal lawmakers to protest a megabuck, nationwide effort by ‘big pharma’ to restrict important generic drugs,” according to Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens.
The AMAC chief urged his membership to “mount a pre-emptive, immediate and concerted effort” to counter efforts in state legislatures across the country and in Congress to constrain generic versions of important biological drugs. “The big drug companies are targeting generic versions of such important brands as Humira and Enbrel, which treat rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, and Herceptin, Avastin and Rituxan, which target cancer. If they succeed, it could put treatment out of the reach of many seniors, particularly those on fixed incomes.”
Weber noted that eight states are considering new rules to limit lower-cost generic substitutions, including Virginia where its House of Delegates has already passed proposed new legislation.
“Biosimilar medicines, which are less costly versions of brand-name biologics, have been used safely in Europe for nearly seven years. However, these affordable treatments are not yet available in the U.S. But under new federal laws, the FDA now is developing regulations that will allow for the approval and use of biosimilars here at home,” according to a statement issued by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association [GPA].
The GPA said studies show that “generic drug use has saved the U.S. health care system approximately $1.07 trillion over the past decade (2002 – 2011) with $192.8 billion in savings achieved in 2011 alone.”
In an interview on the Fox Business News channel this week, Andrew Mangione, a senior executive at AMAC, said: “we’re in uncharted territory. These medications are complex and we need some leadership from, not only the administration, but from the FDA. We need to come up with new standards to determine the generic equivalency of these biologic medications.
“AMAC does not want to see our members’ medical bills, specifically drug costs, go up a penny. So, there’s a lot of concern. You’re looking at an older population, who suffer from chronic conditions who are high utilizers of medications. The federal government has to work in concert with drug organizations to make sure they come up with a fair and equitable solution, but they should not do it on the backs of senior citizens,” Mangione concluded.
The Affordable Care Act encourages increased competition for biologics with medications called biosimilars, he added. “However, like most of Obamacare’s ‘big ideas,’ Congress neglected to provide any details on how to accomplish this initiative and has effectively pitted Big Pharma against consumers, namely senior citizens living on fixed incomes.”
Weber exhorted members, their families and their friends to call, write and visit their local and federal lawmakers, urging them to protect their access to affordable generic drugs. “Biosimilar pharmaceuticals may be a special class of drugs, but they represent a potential opening shot in a new war against generics.”