WASHINGTON, DC (May 30, 2019) — UnitedHealthcare’s (UHC) recent announcement that it will begin preferring brand name biologics over lower priced FDA-approved biosimilars is a step backwards in patient care. In addition, UHC’s decision to force patients to “fail-first” on a reference product before moving to the biosimilar put’s patient health at risk.
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has voiced concern with such practices, noting that “volume-based rebates may encourage dysfunctional clinical treatment pathways…We see no clinical rationale for these practices, since a biosimilar must demonstrate, among other things, that it has no clinically meaningful differences from the reference product as a part of demonstrating biosimilarity.”
Currently marketed biosimilars are, on average, at a 47% list price discount from their branded reference products and an 18% lower net price discount in Medicare Part B. Patient cost-sharing is often based on the list price of a drug. By preferring brand products, UHC will jeopardize patient access and savings.
Indeed, biosimilars do and will continue to provide financial relief to America’s patients. Major insurers including Kaiser Permanente have realized significant savings for their patients by preferring biosimilars and pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) Magellan recently released a study that preferring just one biosimilar over its respective reference product saved its members 34% in drug costs.
We look forward to continuing to work with policymakers to ensure the development of a robust biosimilars market in the United States.
AAM is driven by the belief that access to safe, quality, effective medicine has a tremendous impact on a person’s life and the world around them. Generic and biosimilar medicines improve people’s lives, improving society and the economy in turn. AAM represents the manufacturers and distributors of finished generic pharmaceuticals and biosimilars, manufacturers and distributors of bulk pharmaceutical chemicals, and suppliers of other goods and services to the generic industry. Generic pharmaceuticals are 90 percent of prescriptions dispensed in the U.S. but only 22 percent of total drug spending.
About the Biosimilars Council
The Biosimilars Council, a division of the Association for Accessible Medicines (AAM), works to ensure a positive environment for patient access to biosimilar medicines. The Biosimilars Council is a leading source for information about the safety and efficacy of more affordable alternatives to costly brand biologic medicines. Areas of focus include public and health expert education, strategic partnerships, government affairs, legal affairs and regulatory policy. More information is available at www.biosimilarscouncil.org.