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Tonko, Gibbs Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Lower Prescription Drug Costs for American Consumers

Legislation requires HHS to incentivize use of lower-cost, effective “biosimilar” health services

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WASHINGTON—Representatives Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) and Bob Gibbs (R-OH) today introduced the Star Rating for Biosimilars Act, bipartisan legislation that directs the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to evaluate Medicare plans based on whether or not cost-saving biosimilars are available to enrollees.

Biosimilar drugs are clinically equivalent forms of biologic drugs, similar to generics for standard prescription drugs. Biosimilars on average cost 30 percent less than biologics, which are used to treat some of life’s most serious diseases, including cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, and more. 

“In our Capital Region and across the nation, families are forced to pay unacceptably high prices for treatments to debilitating and even deadly diseases,” Congressman Tonko said. “Biosimilars are a safe, effective and cost-saving option. But unjust profitable dynamics in America’s health care system are blocking access to these alternatives, forcing patients to pay a far higher price for substantially similar medical care. My bill shines a spotlight on existing barriers in current health plans, provides meaningful transparency where plans fall short, and allows for reform to unlock the billions in savings for patients and taxpayers. No family should have to choose between paying their prescription or putting food on the table. It’s past time Congress act to make these lifesaving treatments more accessible to all.”

“As the next generation of generics, biosimilars are newer, lower-cost alternatives to brand name biologics,” said Meaghan Rose Smith, Executive Director of the Biosimilars Forum. “We know biosimilars are just as safe and effective as the biologics they reference, yet the majority of patients still don’t have access to these lower-cost options. The Forum is encouraged by Congressmen Tonko and Gibbs’ bipartisan work to shine a light on the plans where patients are blocked from biosimilars, which will ultimately allow for reforms that encourage increased biosimilar use and drive significant health care savings.”

The Star Ratings for Biosimilars Act will require HHS to evaluate Medicare Advantage and Part D plans on how they provide access to biosimilar drugs to help motivate plans to improve performance and therefore implement changes to improve access to biosimilars. Biosimilars still face very low market share and utilization in the U.S. despite the fact they could generate much needed savings for patients and taxpayers. This legislation seeks to realize those savings and further develop the biosimilars market.


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