The New Mexico Senate on Monday unanimously passed Rep. Debbie Armstrong’s bill, HB 260, which will allow pharmacists in the state, when filling a prescription for a biologic medicine, to dispense less-expensive biosimilar medicines once the Federal Drug Administration has determined that the medicine is interchangeable with an existing biologic treatment.
“With biological products becoming increasingly important in treating medical conditions from cancer to rheumatoid arthritis, and with the FDA currently considering several biosimilar products for ‘interchangeable’ status, it is important that we act now to ensure that patients have access to biosimilar products as soon as they become available. That way we can reduce costs and still provide patients with the quality care they need,” Armstrong said.
Biologics are medications that are derived from living cells, rather than chemical compounds. Pharmaceutical companies can create biosimilar products after the patent has expired on the original biologic. The biosimilar is not necessarily identical to the original—hence the term bio-similar—but, after testing, the FDA can classify a biosimilar as interchangeable with the original biologic.
While no biosimilars have yet been classified as interchangeable by the FDA, several are in the approval process. Under HB 260, pharmacists will be able dispense a biosimilar once the FDA classifies it as interchangeable.
“Modern medicine’s success has been in large part due to access to high-quality, innovative medications that ease symptoms and even cure diseases,” Armstrong said. “Just as generic chemical drugs have helped save money and save lives, so too can biosimilar medications. We want New Mexico pharmacists to be prepared to easily provide patients with biosimilar medications that make sense for them.”
HB 260 now heads to the governor’s desk. According to Legislative Council Service, “the governor may sign [the] bill, veto it or refuse to act on it. If the governor fails to act on [the] bill, [which she has] received before the last three days of [the] legislative session, it becomes law without the governor's signature, as long as the legislature is still in session.”