Copycat Drugs Could Cut Prices in Half

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Knockoffs of costly biotech drugs could mean big savings for consumers.

An executive at CVS Health says the emergence of copycat drugs in the U.S. could create competition that brings down the price of expensive biotech drugs by 40 percent to 50 percent, according to a Reuters report.

Technically known as biosimilars, such copycat drugs are already on the market in Europe. The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first biosimilar for the U.S. market on Friday, “firing the starting gun on a new industry that could help the U.S. curb its $376 billion in yearly drug spending.”

The drug is a rival version of Neupogen, a treatment prescribed to chemotherapy patients, according to the Journal.

“Lower-priced copies of biotech drugs are estimated to save the U.S. $47 billion over the next 10 years, according to consulting firm Avalere Health LLC. Unlike regular pills, biotechnology drugs haven’t faced generic competition when their patents expire because they are much harder to copy,” the Journal reports.

U.S. pharmacy benefit managers like CVS Health and Express Scripts are pressuring pharmaceutical makers to lower prices for their clients, according to the Reuters report.

Novartis is not alone in its pursuit of biosimilars. Other manufacturers developing biotech copycats include Pfizer, Mylan, Amgen, Biogen Idec, Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries and Hospira, which already sells a knockoff of the arthritis drug Remicade in Europe.

Stacy Johnson

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