WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) outlined a new bipartisan effort to help lower prices of life-saving drugs used to treat diseases like cancer and arthritis. During a news conference call today, Brown discussed how his proposal would help make drugs more affordable and save taxpayers billions of dollars.

“The high cost of prescription drugs hurts patients, strains Medicare and Medicaid, and drives up private insurance costs,” said Brown. “Among the most expensive prescription drugs, biologics can be effective in treating cancer and other illnesses, but are often too expensive. The PRICED Act will allow for more robust competition in the biologics market and provide for more new, equally effective biosimilars which will help provide more options for consumers and drive down prices. This will save taxpayers billions of dollars while incentivizing innovation that could save lives.”  

Brown was joined by Brian Lehman, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System’s manager of pharmacy benefits and policy, talked about the struggle retirees broadly have affording these drugs.

“Healthcare purchasers and Ohioans need biosimilar competition and savings,” Lehman said. “Biosimilar competition will help us continue providing a high quality health plan – just as generic drug competition has helped. Ohioans are challenged with the high cost of biologic drugs and need safe, effective and affordable biosimilar products that are life changing and even life-saving.”

In the same way that generics entering the market helped increase competition and boost access to more affordable prescription drugs, Brown’s bill would make clinically safe and effective versions of biologics called “biosimilars” available, providing additional competition in the marketplace and making life-saving drugs more affordable for consumers.

Biologics – drugs made using living organisms – currently have the longest exclusivity period of any approved pharmaceutical, which has a chilling effect on innovation, limits competition, and prevents the development and marketability of biosimilars. Allowing more biosimilars to enter the market will save patients, taxpayers, and hospitals money. Brown’s bill would reduce the exclusivity period for biologics to ensure that more of these drugs can be developed and made available to consumers faster.

Currently, many biologics cost $100,000 or more. High prices, which are often a result of a lack of competition in the market, are unreasonable for patients, insurance companies, and taxpayers. The PRICED Act would reduce exclusivity for biologics in the United States from 12 years to seven years. This will lead to the development of more medicines – including biosimilars – and help more of these life-saving drugs enter the marketplace.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ 2017 Budget request, reducing exclusivity for biologics from 12 to seven years would save the federal government and taxpayers $6.9 billion over the next 10 years. In addition, several studies estimate the projected savings from the approval of biosimilars for current high-cost biologics to be anywhere from $44 billion to $250 billion over ten years.

The bill has been endorsed by AARP, Center for Medicare Advocacy, Alliance for Retired Americans, AFL-CIO, UNITE HERE, International Union – UAW, Center for Medicare Rights, American Federation of Teachers, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Families USA, AFSCME, Public Citizen, Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), Consumer’s Union, the National Community Pharmacists Association, Express Scripts, and the Public Sector HealthCare Roundtable.