Congress said to want cheaper biotech drugs
Lawmakers are moving on a bill that could shave thousands of dollars a year off the prices of fancy drugs: newspaper.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Senior Democrats and Republicans in Congress are hard at work on bills that would provide millions of Americans with cheaper copies of biotech drugs that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, a news report said Saturday.
The New York Times said in a report on its Web site from Washington that the legislation's chances got a boost after Democrats took control of Congress and after the FDA's chief medical officer told lawmakers the agency could review the generic medicines to ensure they were as effective as the original drugs.
Consumer groups, employers and insurers are lobbying for the bill, which they see as a way to hold down health costs, the report said.
The law faces significant hurdles, according to the report. Big brand-name drugmakers say biotech products, made from cells and living organisms, are so complex that a copy will never be identical to the original and therefore cannot be certified as safe without testing in humans. Regular drugs are made from basic chemicals, usually in pill form.
The report noted that sales of biotech drugs jumped 20 percent to $40 billion last year, making them the fastest-growing category in health spending, according to IMS Health, a market research company. It said 400 products are in the pipeline to treat cancer, AIDS, diabetes and Alzheimer's, as well as scores of other diseases.
Biotech drugs can be effective but costly. Avastin, a cancer treatment made by Genentech (Charts), can cost $4,400 to $8,800 a month while Cerezyme, a drug made by Genzyme (Charts) for Gaucher disease, costs $200,000 a year. Enbrel, made by Amgen (Charts) for rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, costs an average of $16,000 a year, the report said.