Statement from Ralph G. Neas, President and CEO of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association on California Governor Brown’s veto of SB598

Published Online: Saturday, October 12, 2013
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PRESS RELEASE

WASHINGTON, DC (Oct. 12, 2013) — Today, Governor Jerry Brown demonstrated compassion for millions of patients and strong fiscal stewardship for the state of California by vetoing SB 598, a bill that would have impeded access to new biosimilar medicines.

This Amgen and Genentech-promoted bill was designed to drive their profits and thwart competition from biosimilars, newer versions of biotech drugs that offer patients the promise of cutting-edge medicines without the hefty price tag. But with one stroke of his pen, the Governor has preserved access for millions of patients and will save California taxpayers billions of dollars.

This news is welcomed by more than 30 organizations that called for the Governor’s veto, including CalPERS, California Pharmacists Association, AARP, Walgreens, California Retailers Association, California Association of Health Plans, CVS Caremark, California Correctional Health Care Services, Pacific Business Group on Health, nine state labor unions, Express Scripts Inc., and Kaiser Permanente.

The reason that such a diverse coalition opposed this bill, and continues to oppose bills like this nationwide, is simple — it adds unneeded burdens to the dispensing of biosimilar medications that will drive up costs. In fact, an Express Scripts Inc. study released in September points out that the savings from biosimilars to the state of California would be $27 billion over 10 years, noting that “state legislation that frustrates… efforts to use biosimilars will undoubtedly jeopardize these savings.”

Governor Brown wisely recognized that there is no need to rush to legislate while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still developing guidelines for these new medicines. As the Los Angeles Times editorial board wrote, “state lawmakers should resist the urge to get out in front of the FDA in a way that could undermine the goal they're purportedly trying to achieve.” GPhA concurs, and supports the FDA as the world's leader in science-based protection of patient safety.

SB 598 was one of a series of bills introduced across the country by giant brand biotech companies hoping to stymie competition before any biosimilar therapies are even approved in the United States. Legislation similar to SB 598 has been blocked this year in 10 states, enacted with significant amendments in three states, and enacted with Amgen and Genentech-backed provisions intact in only one state (North Dakota). Florida enacted a law that promotes access to biosimilars without burdensome physician notification requirements.

References:
Governor Brown Veto Letter
Los Angeles Times editorial
San Francisco Chronicle editorial
Sacramento Bee column
San Jose Mercury News op-ed
New York Times editorial
Richmond Times-Dispatch op-ed
Groups opposing SB 598
FDA statement
CalPERS letter
GPhA letter to Governor Brown urging veto
Biosimilars in the states map (updated Sept. 2013)
Biosimilars one pager
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