Biological products are a growing class of medicines available to treat disease. Biological products differ from traditional drugs in a few key ways. Biologics are manufactured in living cells, while drugs are manufactured through a chemical process. Biosimilars, interchangeable biologicals and follow-on biologics are the names given to the “generic” versions of brand-name biologics. Even after an interchangeable biological is approved by the FDA, it must meet additional requirements to be considered “interchangeable.” The FDA must determine that the biosimilar can be expected to produce the same clinical result as the brand-name product in any patient and that it has similar safety risks as the brand-name product. At the point that the FDA deems a biosimilar interchangeable, state law will govern how substitutions will be allowed.

On Sept. 21, news that Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of a 62-year-old drug by 4,000 percent overnight made headlines. The drug, Daraprim, is critical to the care of HIV and AIDS patients. The sharp rise in price from $18 to $750 per pill is part of the all-too-familiar trend of drug-price spiking in the United States and highlights concerns about the sustainability of health care.

Terminally ill individuals in Colorado, Louisiana and Missouri will now be able to try experimental drugs or treatments that have not yet been approved by the FDA.

The idea of allowing terminally ill patients access to experimental drugs and treatments is thought to have been inspired by Dallas Buyers Club, a movie about an AIDS patient who smuggles treatments from Mexico because they were not legal in the U.S.

Under the bills, patients that have exhausted every other possible drug or treatment who obtain the...

In the 12 years since New Hampshire mandated health insurance companies to cover contraceptive services, no one has asked for repeal.  That is, until the controversy broke out last month over exempting religious organizations from President Obama’s national mandate, New Hampshire Rep. Terie Norelli told CSG. The 1999 legislation, which Norelli co-sponsored, does not contain any exemption for religious organizations. 

States already have grappled with insurance coverage of contraceptives before the Obama administration issues rules in 2012 called for under the Affordable Care Act. Twenty-six states have passed laws mandating insurance coverage for contraceptives; another two have administrative rulings requiring coverage. Nineteen states also have included exemption provisions for religious organizations. The Hawaii statute was the model used for the Obama compromise on exemptions.

Prescription drug abuse continues to be recognized as the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem.  The latest “Monitoring the Future” study from the University of Michigan indicated that prescription drugs are second only to marijuana in their frequency of abuse. In Kentucky, the rate of overdoses from prescription drugs doubled among men and tripled among women between 2000 and 2009. In Florida, estimates suggest as many as seven people are dying daily from accidental overdoses. Deaths from prescription drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in 17 states.

A recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health found prescription medication abuse is a significant societal health issue, with more Americans abusing prescription drugs than cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants combined. It also found that one in five teens will abuse a prescription medication at least once in their lifetime.  Preventing prescription drug abuse and misuse, an epidemic in our country, is one of the key strategic priorities of the Cardinal Health Foundation.

Prescription drug abuse continues to be recognized as the nation’s fastest-growing drug  problem. Data from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicated that nearly one-third of people age 12 and older who used drugs for the first time started by using prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes.

Even as overall private-sector employment fell by 0.7 percent during the Great Recession, jobs in the life sciences grew by 1.4 percent, according to the latest state-of-the-industry study released last summer. Overall, the field of life sciences, which includes pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, gained 19,000 jobs in 2008, according to the report released by Battelle Memorial Foundation and the Biotechnology Industry Organization, known as BIO.

This brief from the Midwestern Legislative Conference Health and Human Services Committee explores what actions states must take this year in order to set up health insurance exchanges.

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