Chris Hansen, ACS CAN President

A Blog From the ACS CAN President

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Increasing Access to Treatment Options Through Biosimilar Legislation

July 27, 2018

Access to quality care has long been one of our top priority issues. To increase access to potentially lifesaving treatments, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) advocates for legislation that enhances access to biosimilar drugs, which offer safe and effective treatment options for cancer patients. This week, ACS CAN released new materials aimed at educating cancer patients, lawmakers and advocates on the benefits of biosimilars and highlighting ACS CAN’s continued work to advance policies that increase access to treatment options.  

Biosimilars are close copies of biologic therapies (biologics), a class of drugs that are produced by living organisms. Due to the complex structure of biologics, biosimilars are held to a different approval standard than generic drugs. While generic drugs are exact chemical copies of the original drug, biosimilars are developed to be highly similar copies that are as safe, pure, and potent as the original biologic. Biosimilars are tested to ensure they produce the same effect as the biologic, so patients can be confident they are receiving the best care possible. In addition to offering more options for safe and effective cancer treatment, biosimilars offer potentially less costly options for medications and increase competition within the biotechnology sector.

The new educational materials break down the science behind biosimilars and detail the process through which the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviews and approves biosimilar products. The materials also educate cancer patients on the role that biosimilars may play in their treatment process – for example, when their health care provider might prescribe them a biosimilar product, or how, depending on state law, a pharmacist may provide an interchangeable biosimilar as a substitute for a prescribed biologic.

Much of ACS CAN’s efforts to expand access to and understanding of biosimilars is done at the state level. As of May of this year, 41 states and Puerto Rico have adopted legislation that enhances patient access to biosimilar drugs. These state laws establish standards for the substitution of a biosimilar prescription product as a replacement for an original biologic product. A few months ago, I wrote about our successful campaign in South Dakota, where a bill unanimously passed that will allow pharmacists to substitute an interchangeable biosimilar if patients and physicians are properly notified. Similar bills have passed in five other states so far in 2018, and we hope that momentum continues in the remaining states that have considered, but not yet adopted, the legislation.

As ACS CAN works to increase access to safe, effective and affordable treatment options, we continue to expand awareness and understanding of how cancer patients can benefit from biosimilars. Learn more with our new materials at www.fightcancer.org/biosimilars.

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