Anne Bass, MD: Increasing Access to Care

Anne Bass, MD, rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery and professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, discusses the potential for biosimilars to increase access to care.

TranscriptWhat role do you see biosimilars playing in increasing access to care?

Biosimliars have the potential to greatly increase access to care. Biologic agents in general have revolutionized the management of many, many rheumatic diseases, starting with infliximab in 1999, which completely changed the natural history of rheumatoid arthritis from what it was prior to the availability of [tumor necrosis factor] TNF inhibitors. Now, of course, we have a whole array of biologics that we can use. So, they’re fantastic drugs as a group, but they’re fantastically expensive— $50,000 a year and upward. And it’s going to bankrupt the system to say nothing of patients who potentially don’t have insurance access to these medications. So, the availability of biosimilars, if they are as efficacious and safe, and if– the big if– the price is low enough, there’s real potential to improve access. The problem has been that the pricing has only been 15% lower than the original drugs, which is nowhere near as low as we originally hoped, and there’s a whole variety of factors that go into that, but it’s something that we need to work on, particularly in this country. In Europe, the price differential is far greater.

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