Biosimilars: A lower-cost drug alternative

OPERS advocates for alternatives to high-cost specialty medications

Feb. 10, 2017 — It’s in the news – prescription medication costs are on the rise. Some medications can be very expensive, especially those used to treat serious and rare diseases such as certain types of cancer and inflammatory conditions.

Retirees suffering from these rare conditions are feeling the pinch and asking themselves – are there safe, effective, lower-cost drugs available as alternatives to some of these expensive medications? There are, and they are called biosimilar drugs.

In a new video, Brian Lehman, OPERS pharmacy benefits and policy manager, discusses the present and future of biosimilar drugs with OPERS’ Michael Pramik. Lehman describes the value of biosimilars and what OPERS is doing to support availability of more biosimilar medications for participants.

Seeking more insight? Study these fast facts about biosimilars on the OPERS website.

Heather Drago

Heather Drago is a health care communications specialist with the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System. She breaks down health care topics into clear, concise, consumable messaging for our retirees. When she’s not blogging, Heather composes content for OPERS print publications, the OPERS website and internal employee communications.

Heather Drago

Health Care Communication Specialist

8 thoughts on “Biosimilars: A lower-cost drug alternative

  • February 10, 2017 at 3:00 pm
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    I don’t understand how this benefits OPERS retirees on Medicare at all since OPERS no longer provides the health insurance, only the money to buy the insurance. Please explain how this benefits us!

    Reply
    • February 14, 2017 at 11:48 am
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      OPERS advocacy efforts for more biosimilars will help lower costs for both Non-Medicare and Medicare participants. An increasing number of biosimilars in the U.S. will help Non-Medicare and Medicare participants who need access to more affordable specialty drugs. Additionally, the savings generated by biosimilars in the U.S. ($44 to $250 billion over 10 years) will help slow increasing prescription drug spending and resulting healthcare premiums for everyone.

      OPERS continues to advocate with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to create a lower cost biosimilar/generic specialty drug tier under Medicare Part D plans or require these drug manufactures to participate in the coverage gap (50 percent) discount program in order to assure that our Medicare patients have a lower cost share for these drugs than for brand specialty drugs.

      Thanks,
      OPERS

      Reply
  • February 10, 2017 at 4:01 pm
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    I find this discussion on Biosimilars very interesting. My cardiologist is very much against these drugs, he has studied them extensively in Europe and finds in many cases very adverse reactions and other problems. Just a thought on them. He, of course, will not permit me to take some generic drugs others he ok’s.

    Reply
    • February 11, 2017 at 7:23 am
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      I am uncomfortable with biosimiliars. I’m not sure what the answer is but the goal should be health care and prescription coverage that supplies coverage at the highest level to keep you healthy. If your physician wants you on a name brand medicine that’s what you should take. If you would have a better chance of surviving with a certain treatment or facility, your insurance should cover you. Health care is nothing but numbers anymore, my personal experience with what OPERS covers is frightening. People are not going to be able to retire due to this problem.

      Reply
    • February 11, 2017 at 10:11 am
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      Europe has had over 10 years and over 400 million patient days of safe biosimilar use. Would love your cardiologist to back up his findings with documented evidence regarding biosimilars.

      Reply
  • February 10, 2017 at 7:55 pm
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    Some of these drugs are being promoted to save dollars but in some cases it is said to come at a cost to the health of those taking them so I hope there is a lot of research and proven history before more are approved and hopefully people with reservations won’t be penalized if they don’t take them even if available.

    Reply
  • February 12, 2017 at 9:36 am
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    I am glad that OPERS is advocating for lower drug cost alternatives. It seems to me that OPERS also needs to look within its own current policies which have created huge drug expenses for retirees. When we were switched to HRA my drug costs rose 700% for the same drugs. This is largely due to taking drugs without Generic substitute and as an individual not having any bargaining power for discounts. I understand over 29,000 Retirees are placed in this position. Couple that with eliminating existing spousal coverage and a lot of people are hugely impacted. I understand that costs need to be contained but it seems excessive in the extreme with Retirees. OPERS shouldn’t be afraid to re-examine their policies and at least negotiate discounts with these drug plans or provide more fair cost sharing. What can you do to help?

    Reply
    • February 15, 2017 at 8:23 am
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      Thank you for your thoughts. Please keep in mind that OPERS made the decision to move to the Connector so it would be more affordable for our retirees – we see this in medical plans and even drug plans when generic drugs are taken. We understand that not every drug has a generic option, but when possible consider switching to generic medications to save money. Past newsletters have highlighted cost saving measures, including the introduction of goodrx.com. GoodRx looks at different pharmacies in an area and the cost associated with particular medications. This allows users to see what various pharmacies charge for the same medication. Additionally, any available funds in the HRA can be used towards out of pocket prescription costs.

      Thanks,
      OPERS

      Reply

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