ICYMI: This Week, HHS Secretary Azar, Congressman Burgess, Physicians and Patients Pointed to Biosimilars to Save Seniors and Taxpayers Money; Congress Introduces Two Bills to Lower Costs with Biosimilars

Washington DC — The Biosimilars Forum and Hatch Center Foundation co-hosted a Symposium on Tuesday, March 10: Breaking through the Barriers, featuring patients, physicians, policymakers and a keynote by HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar II. 

This week, members in the House and Senate also introduced separate proposals that would increase access and use of biosimilars to provide direct cost savings to patients and taxpayers:

Congressmen Cardenas, Hudson, Fitzpatrick, & Craig Introduction of H.R. 6179

  • The legislation directs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to implement a “shared savings’ model for biosimilars to encourage physicians to prescribe these lower-cost medicines. 
  • A recent poll found that an overwhelming 73% of Americans are in favor of sharing savings, a policy that has been projected to save $3 billion in taxpayer dollars over the next ten years.

Senators McSally (R-AZ) and Jones (D-AL) Introduction of S. 3466, the ACCESS for Biosimilars Act of 2020

  • This bipartisan bill will directly lower drug costs for Medicare Part B seniors prescribed biosimilars, lower-cost treatment options for cancers, Crohn’s and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
  • An analysis of this proposal found reducing patients’ out-of-pocket costs for biosimilars in Medicare Part B can save up to $5.2 billion in taxpayer dollars over ten years, directly saving seniors as much as $3.3 billion in out-of-pocket costs over the same period.

Key Highlights from the Tuesday Symposium are below and the full discussion can be viewed here:

HHS Secretary Alex Azar reinforced the administration’s commitment to lowering health care costs for patients with biosimilars and voiced support for legislation to increase access to biosimilars: 

“President Trump is always open to ideas that can lower drug costs while keeping patients at the center of our system. I believe that when you combine the President and his administration’s commitment and the clear consensus around the importance of biosimilars, from Congress and healthcare payers, that we are nearing an inflection point. 

“Americans are demanding lower drug costs and lower healthcare costs, period. They have a president who is intent and delivering that and who is unafraid to take on powerful interests to make that happen. But we can’t succeed without sustained tension on these stubborn challenges, and that’s where all of you come in.”

HHS Secretary Alex Azar

Pam Traxel, SVP, ACS-CAN, spoke about the billions in savings that biosimilars could generate for cancer patients: 

“Cancer cost the United States $80.2 billion in 2015. We know that cost is significantly more [today]. We think biosimilars are a great solution to reducing drug costs while providing patients access to care. We need to make sure cancer patients have access to [biosimilars] particularly because we’re finding that cancer requires a lot of combination therapy. If some of those drugs could be biosimilars [we could] reduce cost to patients and the system…In the conversations around drug pricing and reforming the healthcare system, biosimilars [should be] always included as part of that conversation.”

Photo from left to right: Juliana Reed, Anna Hyde, Annette Guarisco Fildes, Dr. Sameer Awsare, and Pam Traxel. 

Dr. Sameer Awsare, Associate Director, Permanente Medical Group, discussed the need for physician education and incentives and the current barriers in the market: 

“[For Kaiser] to accomplish [increased use of biosimilars, it involved] the education of physicians and patients, building trust with physicians and patients and putting in a system that actually supported them…We need to look at how to incentivize physicians to do the right thing for our patients so we can make health care affordable…What use is it if we have these wonderful medications which are really expensive and no one can take them? We really need to make sure that our patients have access to these medications.”

Dr. Marc Siegel, physician and Fox News Contributor, voiced his support for a blue ribbon panel for biosimilars and biosimilars task force: 

“I love this idea of a blue ribbon panel [for biosimilars]. I think we’ve exhausted the opioid approach for now so maybe we can make this the next thing we can really publicize – we’re starting today – but we could develop a [biosimilars] task force of sorts.”

Photo from left to right: Juliana Reed, Brett Baker, Wayne Winegarden, Alex Brill, and U.S. Congressman Michael Burgess

Rep. Michael Burgess detailed biosimilars’ promise to bring more competition that will lower patients’ treatment costs: 

“America is the engine of innovation. Generics are an American success story also because they allow the engine of innovation to still run [and] also allow for…a less expensive similar product to be sold and the number of patients who are treated vastly increased. Generics have democratized the small molecule world, and biosimilars hold promise of doing that in the biologic world. So, now we’re at a point where it’s just the beginning of biosimilars really becoming part of our treatment armamentarium. It’s a good thing.”