Calif. state legislature mulls biosimilar carve-out legislation

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A bill under consideration by California's state legislature contains provisions that would place restrictions on pharmacists' ability to dispense knock-off versions of biotech drugs, drawing opposition from the generic pharmaceutical lobby and the state's pension fund for government employees.

The provision in the bill, SB 598, would require pharmacists to notify prescribers and patients if they have substituted a biosimilar and also forbid pharmacists from substituting biosimilars if prescribers indicate "Do not substitute" on prescriptions. The bill is one of several sponsored by biotech giants Amgen and Genentech that have appeared in state legislatures.

On Wednesday, the board of the California Public Employees' Retirement System voted to oppose the provision and oppose passing the bill unless it is removed, drawing praise from the Generic Pharmaceutical Association.

"Passing SB 598 with this provision intact would prevent the state of California from realizing the full cost savings from new, safe and affordable medicines," GPhA president and CEO Ralph Neas said. "As health costs continue to strain the state's fiscal security and the use of biologic medicines increases, we urge California lawmakers to reject this bill."