How Healthcare Legislation Can Ensure Patient Safety and Spur Innovation


Next week, the U.S. Senate is expected to take up debate on health care reform. Regardless of what happens in Washington DC, the impact will be felt on virtually every business and individual in Washington State.

Without question, a simple solution to our health care crisis is elusive, and in the coming days and weeks many complicated and important issues will be debated, but from where I stand today, there is one key health care issue with no room for debate.

The issue is the development of a pathway for regulatory approval of biosimilars by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Biosimilars, as the name implies, are drugs that are similar to, but not the same as, innovator biologics. Biologics are molecular structures that can be hundreds of times more complex. That’s why copycat versions of biologics aren’t called “generics.” Biotechnology-based therapies that fight diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s are made from living cells—a process far more complex than the one used to manufacture chemical-based drugs such as aspirin.

The illustration below helps to put into perspective the differences between small molecule drugs and biologics:


Size and Complexity of Drug Molecules

To give a sense of size, same-scale computer models of three drugs—aspirin (a small molecule), somatropin (human growth hormone), and Herceptin (an antibody)—are presented as an example of the relative complexity: The molecules are to scale and the objects are not, but the objects (bike, car, private jet) indicate relative size and complexity of these molecules. Used with Permission. Source: Genentech


Here in Washington State, we are fortunate to have great leadership on this issue from Representative Jay Inslee (D, WA-1). Rep. Inslee is one of the lead sponsors of the Pathway for Biosimilars Act (H.R. 1548), bipartisan legislation that protects patient safety and strikes the appropriate balance between increasing competition and maintaining our nation’s status as the world’s leader in science and innovation.

Rep. Inslee wants to make sure that biosimilar manufacturers are required to provide the FDA with clinical data on the safety and efficacy of their medicines. And his legislation preserves incentives for … Next Page »

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Chris Rivera is the President of the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association. Follow @

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One response to “How Healthcare Legislation Can Ensure Patient Safety and Spur Innovation”

  1. Dan Eramian says:

    Mr. Rivera should make it clear that his position on the follow-on biologics issue does not represent all the views of the biotech community in the state of Washington.