Meridian Star


February 11, 2013

Big pharmas’ bills in Mississippi too


High drug costs pose challenges to all health insurance plans, from individual to group to Medicaid to Medicare.

    One of the most effective ways to cut drug costs has been to allow doctors and pharmacists to substitute lower cost generic drugs for higher price brand-name drugs. For example, Medicare Part D co-pays are far lower for generic drugs than for brand-name drugs. Some insurance plans won’t even pay for brand-name drugs (e.g. Nexium) because lower cost options are available.

    This trend works against big pharmaceutical companies’ ability to maximize profits while supporting competitiveness for generic producers.

What’s big pharma to do?

Change the paradigm, i.e., change the way people see the issue.

    The latest high-price drugs coming out of big pharma are called “biologics.” They differ from older drugs because they are produced from living cells, not chemical factories. Reports say biologics sales have risen to one-fourth of all U.S. drug sales.

The patents on these drugs – Humira, Avastin, Rituxan, Herceptin and more – are time limited and nearing expiration. Normally that would allow companies to start producing lower cost generics.

    The New York Times reports big pharma is taking pre-emptive moves to thwart generic production by getting states to adopt restrictive legislation.

    “In statehouses around the country, some of the nation’s biggest biotechnology companies are lobbying intensively to limit generic competition to their blockbuster drugs,” said the NY Times story, “potentially cutting into the billions of dollars in savings on drug costs contemplated in the federal health care overhaul law.”

    In Mississippi, Senator Dean Kirby and Representative Bobby Moak introduced big pharma’s bills.

    Big pharma’s new paradigm is this. Traditional generic drugs are “similar” but not identical to brand-name drugs. Biologic drugs are far more complex. So, standards for “bio-similar” generic drugs should be much higher and more restrictive.

Standards for drugs are usually determined by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA, under pressure from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Obamacare) to spur competition in the biotechnology drug market to hold down costs, favors generic production.

    Thus big pharma’s focus on state laws.

    The Kirby and Moak bills would limit pharmacists’ and doctors’ authority to substitute biologics. Their bills would require the drugs to be “interchangeable” not just “similar,” standards requiring longer, tougher FDA approval processes, and would require pharmacists to obtain patient consent, notify doctors, and maintain records for years.

Generic producers say okay to the “interchangeable” requirement but no to the other provisions, saying they are solely designed to deter biologics substitutions.

    Big pharma argues back that their bills seek patient protection… not profit protection.

The Kirby and Moak bills died without committee action last week. But big pharma's push didn’t. This ongoing story bears watching.


    Bill Crawford ( is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.

Text Only
Biz Marquee
New Today

New federal data show Mississippi received 179 unaccompanied children caught at the U.S. border this year. Gov. Phil Bryant wrote to President Barack Obama demanding the president pre-announce plans to send immigrants to Mississippi, saying Mississippi would block transports. Do you agree with Bryant?

     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites Anti-violence Advocate Killed, but Not Silenced. Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Obama Seeks Limits on US Company Mergers Abroad Large Family to Share NJ Lottery Winnings U.S. Flights to Israel Resume After Ban Lifted Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans Raw: National Guard Helps Battle WA Wildfires
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide