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RELEASE: Rep. Schultz, Sen. Nelson introduce bill to expand access to lower-priced alternatives to brand name prescription drugs

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

(St. Paul) -- State Representative Jennifer Schultz (DFL-Duluth) and State Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) today announced the introduction of a new bill aimed at making lower-priced, non-name brand versions of common biological prescription drugs available to more Minnesota consumers. Biologics are drugs made from complex molecules manufactured using living microorganisms, plants, or animal cells

The bill (SF 990) would require health plans and pharmacy benefit managers to cover all versions of the non-name brand alternatives to biological medications, known as biosimilars. The change would give all patients access to the most affordable and effective version of their medication without compromising safety standards.

“As prescription drug prices continue to skyrocket, more Minnesotans become worried about how they will afford the medications they need to live healthy lives,” said Rep. Schultz, the bill’s chief author in the House. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done in identifying this solution – in partnership with research scientists at Essentia Health and Mayo Clinic – which will help lower drug costs for Minnesotans and give health care systems the flexibility they need to negotiate lower prices for biosimilars.” 

“We can quickly make a big dent in the sky-high cost of health care simply by expanding access to the much more affordable and safe biosimilar versions of biologic prescription drugs,” said Sen. Nelson. “Minnesota is fortunate to have groundbreaking leaders like Mayo Clinic and Essentia Health innovating in this area. Biosimilars could save families hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars per month. Coverage for lower cost biosimilars is a must-do.” 

“Biosimilar medications are just as safe and effective as their brand counterparts,” said Eric Tichy, Vice Chair, Mayo Clinic Pharmacy Supply Solutions. “They are also the most powerful tool we have to control the cost of prescription drugs. Facilitating provider prescribing of biosimilar products for patients supports high-quality care and reduces delays and red tape while also managing the high costs of medication."

Biological and biosimilar medications are both regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have no clinically meaningful difference in safety, purity, or potency. Biological medications account for almost 40% of all prescription drug spending, making them the most significant driver of prescription drug spending in the United States.  

The Institute of Medical Safety reports that gaps in biosimilar coverage pose a number of safety risks for consumers, including delays in care, increased potential for immune-related reactions to biologics, and incorrect product use.

WATCH the press conference here