Trending News Today: Remicade Biosimilar Set to Launch Next Month

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

Although health laws prohibit insurers from discriminating against individuals with serious illnesses, some plans are skirting these laws by making HIV drugs unavailable or unaffordable to patients, according to recent complaints filed with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. This could discourage HIV-positive patients from buying a certain plan or accessing treatment, reported Kaiser Health News. The complaints allege that plans offered by 7 insurers in 8 states are discriminatory because they do not cover necessary medications for treating HIV, or they require large out-of-pocket costs for patients. The complaints, filed by Harvard Law School’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, are against Humana plans in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas, and Cigna plans in Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas. Complaints were filed against 5 other insurers as well: Highmark, Independence Blue Cross, and UPMC health plans in Pennsylvania; Community Health Choice in Texas; and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in Wisconsin. Kevin Costello, director of litigation at the health law center, stated that although the main focus of the case is on HIV medications, the complaints may help people with other chronic illnesses who could be facing similar challenges in drug access, as reported by Kaiser.

On Monday, Pfizer announced the launch of Inflectra, a less-expensive version of Johnson & Johnson’s immune disorder drug Remicade, which will hit pharmacy shelves in late November. According to The Washington Post, this will be only the second biosimilar drug available in the United States. Pfizer reported that it will sell Inflectra at a 15% discount to the list price for Remicade, while J&J said in a statement that it will compete with Inflectra “through a variety of innovative contracting options, discounts and rebates to payers, providers, and pharmacy benefit managers,” in order to maintain Remicade’s affordability, reported the Post.

By 2025, PepsiCo Chief Executive Indra Nooyi said that at least two-thirds of the company’s beverages will contain 100 calories or less per 12-ounce serving in an attempt to lessen the sugar content in their drinks, reported The Washington Post. With the advances in technology and artificial sweeteners, the-soda giant will focus on selling products that have low or zero calories. The announcement comes as criticism from nutritionists and politicians continues to increase because of the link between sugary beverages and issues such as tooth decay, diabetes, and obesity.