Brian Lehman, OPERS’ nationally recognized expert on pharmacy issues, recently was interviewed by National Public Radio on why we are fighting to see more “biosimilar” drugs approved in the United States. One big reason: They save consumers money.
Biosimilars are generic versions of biologics, specialty drugs used to treat illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and a variety of cancers.
Lehman, a pharmacist and OPERS’ pharmacy benefits and policy manager, estimates that half of OPERS’ prescription costs will come from specialty biologic drugs by 2018. While these drugs currently account for just 2 percent of the drugs that our retirees use, they contribute one-third of our total drug cost.
Working to improve access to specialty drugs helps us keep costs low for OPERS retirees, and we want to make sure seniors on a limited income can have access to affordable drugs. Over 10 years, OPERS could save $134 million if 11 biosimilar products come to the marketplace.