Washington Governor Inslee Signs Bill Ensuring Patient Access to Interchangeable Biologic Medicines

Governor Inslee signed Senate Bill 5935 into law on Monday. The Washington Senate passed the legislation in April with a vote of 47-1, preceded by a vote of 96-1 on the same bill in the House.</p>

Washington, D.C. (May 13, 2015) – The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association (WBBA) commend Governor Jay Inslee for signing critical legislation to create a pathway for the substitution of interchangeable biologic medicines.

Governor Inslee signed Senate Bill 5935 into law on Monday. The Washington Senate passed the legislation in April with a vote of 47-1, preceded by a vote of 96-1 on the same bill in the House.

The policies outlined in the bill align with BIO’s principles on biologic substitution, therefore BIO and WBBA support this important legislation and are grateful to Governor Inslee for his leadership on this issue.

“Senate Bill 5935 enjoys the support of physicians across the country, patient groups, and both innovator biologic and biosimilar manufacturing companies. This bill includes communication on all biologic medicines dispensed in order to maintain a consistent and complete medical record,” said Jim Greenwood, BIO’s President and Chief Executive Officer. "By signing this bill into law, Governor Inslee has added Washington to a growing list of states that allow retail pharmacies to substitute interchangeable biologic medicines."

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees approval of biologic medicines and designation of interchangeability, policies governing whether one product may be substituted in place of a doctor's prescription and whether a pharmacist must inform patients and doctors are covered by state law. Senate Bill 5935 seeks to properly preserve patient access to accurate prescription information, maintains incentives for innovation and promotes a competitive market for biologic therapies. BIO will continue to advocate for full communication in the substitution process, as patients and their physicians should have the right to know what biologic medicine the patient receives from the pharmacy.

“We are pleased to see Washington leading the way in adopting policies that not only support a growing industry in our state, but more importantly allow patients access to safe and effective therapies when the first interchangeable biologics are approved by the FDA,” said Chris Rivera, President of the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association. “Furthermore, these policies will provide patients with more opportunities to address their unmet medical needs, particularly severely ill patients who rely on cutting-edge medical treatments.”

While the FDA recently approved the first biosimilar product for sale in the U.S., the agency continues to develop a pathway for the development and approval of safe and effective interchangeable biologic products the United States. In fact the FDA has indicated they expect to see applications for interchangeable biosimilar product approvals this year. However, there is still a major role for states to play in ensuring communication of substitution occurs and physicians remain engaged in the process.

“Interchangeable biologics are not generics. Even slight changes to a biologic drug can change its properties entirely,” said Greenwood. “Unlike conventional generic medicines, interchangeable biologics are not the same as the drugs they seek to substitute. In fact, two biologics made using different cell lines and differing manufacturing processes will rarely, if ever, be exactly the same. Those suggesting interchangeable biologics and generics are the same are wrong.”

Patients and physicians managing chronic conditions are generally aware of which biologic treatments work best in their unique circumstances. Communicating with patients and physicians allows everyone involved the opportunity to discuss past treatment experiences so that any possible unexpected issues can be better understood and avoided.

As the Washington State Legislature continues to address issues related to biologic medicines, BIO and WBBA encourage policy makers to continue to put patients first.