Monday, October 22, 2007

Ask Your Representative to Support Affordable MS Therapies

The cost of biological multiple sclerosis treatments — $16,500 to $29,000 each year — can unfortunately force many people to stop their prescribed therapy because they just cannot afford it. More affordable, generic options for this fast-growing and expensive category of drugs are not yet available. Read or listen to a recent NPR broadcast on this issue. It includes the story of Donna Gosbee of Wyoming who lives with MS and her struggle to afford therapy.

Many people living with MS and other diseases depend on biological drugs to sustain or improve their quality of life. For MS, those therapies include Avonex, Betaseron, Rebif, and Tysabri. Your Representative is on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and reports indicate that members of this Committee will meet on October 31 to discuss the issue. Click here and enter your ZIP code to send a quick email to your Representative today. Tell them your story and the need for affordable MS therapies. Ask them to support the Access to Life-Saving Medicine Act (H.R. 1038).

The U.S. Senate has passed legislation that would establish a course for approving safe, effective, affordable, and comparable versions of biologic therapies for MS and other diseases. Unfortunately, the House still has not yet taken up a similar bill. Members of the House of Representatives will be meeting this month to talk about creating a pathway for the approval of follow-on biological drugs.

It is imperative that the House Energy and Commerce Committee take action on this bill, where Congressman John Dingell (MI) and the rest of the committee will help shape the final legislation. The time for Congress to take action is now. The Access to Life-Saving Medicine Act — introduced by Congressman Henry Waxman (CA) — would provide a statutory pathway for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review and approve generic biologic therapies.

Biologic (also known as biological or biotech) drugs are produced from living cell cultures rather than synthesized chemically. The generic drugs that are currently available are synthetically exact copies of the brand name original, based on a precise chemical composition. Generic versions of biologic drugs, on the other hand, would need to allow for nuances in the cell cultures while meeting certain parameters that are strict enough to ensure they are just as safe and effective as the originals.

Take a minute to write your Representative today. Ask them to move forward with the Access to Life-Saving Medicine Act (H.R. 1038). Congress can provide the FDA with a pathway for approving safe, effective, and lower-cost versions of biologic drugs. And give people living with MS and other diseases more affordable options for therapy.


Daniel Kirkdorffer said...

You write, "those therapies include Avonex, Betaseron, Rebif, and Tysabri".

Any reason, given that there aren't that many more therapies to list you didn't list them all?

How about Copaxone?

Why leave it out here?

MS Activist said...

Hi Daniel, Thank you for your question. We should have been more clear.

Copaxone is actually not a biologic therapy. Avonex, Betaseron, Rebif, and Tysabri are the only MS therapies that are biologic, meaning they are derived from living cell cultures. Other drugs are synthetic and derived chemically.

Daniel Kirkdorffer said...

Not to be flippant, but so what? Copaxone also costs an arm and a leg. Why only focus on the other drugs? Why not seek to make all MS therapies affordable?

Anonymous said...

Well, cheaper access to generic chemical drugs is an entirely different matter as far as the government is concerned. Not that it should be ignored - not in the least bit - but each matter should probably be dealt with individually.

Daniel Kirkdorffer said...

I couldn't disagree more.

If Copaxone is the only therapy that remains expensive, then patients for whom that drug is preferable will find it very hard to take it over the other, cheaper equivalents. The pressures to use the other therapies would be greater.

If the only "affordable" MS drugs are Avonex, Betaseron, Rebif, and Tysabri, then by default Copaxone become marginalized.

We've already seen the emergence of a generic version of Copaxone from India. Let's also work to get that on the table here.

MS Activist said...

We are working every day to make all MS therapies more accessible and affordable.

Copaxone is still patent protected in the United States until 2014, I believe. When the patent is up, it's possible that Teva or another company could come out with a less expensive, generic version.

Anonymous said...

As a realist I have to ask, what difference does it make? The pharmaceutical companies are not going to reduce their price and generics won't be that much less. Disease is a billion dollar business and we're going to have to deal with it just like we do paying higher gas prices. I think we should all be asking the question: When was the last time the billions of dollars and thousands of participating scientists were able to cure anything ? how long has it been ? Will there ever be another cure for disease as long as there is money to be made prolonging it?