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State Senator

Carlo Leone

Representing Stamford & Darien

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Sen. Leone Lauds Bipartisan Passage of Biologicals Bill

Beginning this October, Connecticut residents with certain health disorders who use “biological” products to improve their conditions may see a cost savings at their local pharmacy.

After several years of working on the issue, State Senator Carlo Leone (D-Stamford) has finally championed bipartisan passage of Senate Bill 197, “An Act Concerning Biological Products,” through the legislature.

“For years consumers have been able to save on prescription drug costs by replacing name brands with generics; now we’re bringing that same cost savings to biologics,” said Sen. Leone, who moved the bill out of the General Law Committee where he serves as Senate co-chair. “Advances in medicine are happening on a daily basis, and this bill seeks to keep up with those advances. I’m happy for the support across the board in the state legislature for this bill.”

SB 197 was supported at its February public hearing by Tim Boyd, Director of State Policy for the National Organization for Rare Disorders, which has an office in Danbury.

“The bill has the potential to benefit many of our organization’s members, and it will protect patients by including language calling for prescriber communication,” Boyd testified, noting that about 1 in 10 Connecticut residents is living with a rare disease. “With your support, you will be benefiting numerous patients suffering from rare disorders in Connecticut.”

Unlike traditional pharmaceutical drugs, which are typically made by combining specific chemical ingredients, a biological drug (a “biologic”) is manufactured using living systems such as a microorganism or plant or animal cells; many biologics are produced using recombinant DNA technology. They are usually infused or injected, rather than swallowed in pill form.

Biologics (like Keytruda and Opdivo) can be used for the treatment of numerous diseases and conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, anemia, hemophilia, osteoporosis, and cystic fibrosis.

But biologics are expensive: for example, Keytruda (used to treat non-small cell lung cancer) costs about $12,500 a month, or $150,000 a year.

Although the federal government passed The Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act in 2009, which enables generic “biosimilars” to compete with branded biologics, there are only a handful of less-costly biosimilars now on the market.

But as more biosimilars become available in the future, SB 197 will allow pharmacists to use an interchangeable, less costly biosimilar product instead of the more costly, name-brand biologic.

The new bill requires a pharmacy to post a sign that notifies patrons that the pharmacy may be able to substitute the biologic with a less expensive drug unless the customer objects.

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