Thanks to The Advocate for publishing this very informative article (“How the newest class of drugs could save billions,” April 19) first published by The Chicago Tribune. The report discusses the potential development of biosimilar drugs for the treatment of certain cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis and other diseases now treated by biologic drugs.

LouisianaBio — the statewide, nonprofit affiliate of the international Biotechnology Industry Organization — actively supports biomedical innovation by advocating for public policies that will ultimately improve the lives of all patients. This advocacy also includes supporting patient access to biosimilars in Louisiana.

Unlike conventional drugs which are created from chemicals, biologics and biosimilars are usually made from proteins that are grown in living cells.

While some states have yet to begin discussing biosimilars, Louisiana has the opportunity to address patient access to biosimilars now. Currently, the Louisiana House of Representatives is considering House Bill 319, which will expand patient access to biosimilars and will require pharmacists to notify prescribers when they substitute a biosimilar for a brand-name biologic at the pharmacy. This legislation could make high-quality medical care more affordable for thousands of Louisianians currently taking biologic drugs for severe or disabling diseases.

While having a biosimilars option may make this type of treatment more affordable, we must ensure that physicians and patients have confidence in these therapeutics. It is imperative that the treating physician know which biosimilar options were dispensed to appropriately evaluate a patient’s experience and further treatment options. Moreover, in the interest of public health, the prescribing physician must be advised which biosimilar is being dispensed to report any adverse events.

Remember, biosimilars are not “generics” and are not governed by the current generic regulations. Required communication between pharmacists and prescribers will build confidence in using biosimilars as a lower-cost option for myriad of diseases. This, in turn, will also pave the way for further investment into the development of other biosimilars, increasing and improving access for patients looking for more affordable treatment options.

Biosimilar drugs are here, and as the article reports, the market is expected to grow by billions of dollars. However, in order to foster an innovative and safe environment for offering these new, oftentimes life-saving medical treatments, we need proper legislation. Please urge your legislators to support HB 319 to make the biosimilars option available to patients in Louisiana.

Rhonda Melancon

executive director, LouisianaBio

New Orleans