Analysis: Biosimilar drugs could cut US healthcare spending by $54B

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Introducing biosimilar versions of complex drugs into the marketplace could cut U.S. healthcare spending by $54 billion over the next 10 years, according to an analysis conducted by the RAND Corp.

Biosimilars are highly similar, although not exact, alternatives to biologic drugs. Biologic drugs are complex, protein-based drugs that treat diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and other serious illnesses.

To find the cost-savings estimate, researchers at the RAND Corp. examined previous studies, reviewed the sales history of more than 100 biologic drugs and analyzed the brief introduction of a biosimilar into in the U.S. marketplace.

Researchers found that while only 1 percent to 2 percent of patients in the U.S. are treated with a biologic each year, the drugs accounted for 38 percent of prescription drug spending in 2015. Additionally, 70 percent of the growth in prescription drug spending, between 2010 and 2015, is attributed to biologics.

The introduction of biosimilars into the marketplace expected to drive down prices, increase competition and increase access to biologics.

"Biologics account for the fastest-growing segment of prescription drug spending, but biosimilars have the potential to help slow some of the increase," said Andrew Mulcahy, lead author of the study and a policy researcher at RAND Corp. "However, there remains many important industry, regulatory and policy decisions to be made that will influence whether such savings are realized."

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