BY DIANE TALBERT
I have had psoriasis for over 55 years and psoriatic arthritis for 30 years. My psoriatic arthritis went undiagnosed for over 15 years. I was probably one of the first people to be on a biologic. I was on a study for a year or more before they were on the market. This was all free to me. When it came time for my insurance company to pick up the bill, they said the medication was just too expensive. They had me try a less expensive drug first. There were no biologics among the generic drugs then – there still isn’t one now.
WILL BIOLOGICS EVER BE GENERIC?
My current medication costs $84k a year. This not include pills, creams, office visits or maintenance follow ups. I also have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and fibromyalgia; which I get generic drugs for. This got me to thinking, will biologics ever be generic? The first biologics came out in 1998.
I think we are almost there, but then you have to wait for FDA approval. We have to know that the generic drug would work the same way as the original version. It seems that because a biologic is administer as a shot it makes it hard for a generic company to create an identical product.
GENERIC DRUGS and PATENTS
I still don’t understand why after all these years we still can’t get biologics in generic form. For a biologic to go generic the patent first has to expire. This could take 20 years. When a patent expires another company can create a generic form of any FDA approved drug. The generic is the same in dosage, form, safety, strength, how you take it and how it performs. They use the same active ingredients as the original drug, though the inactive ingredients can differ. The inactive ingredients that are used which have no medical effect on us.
I know there are some people who just trust known brand names. Remember, just because it’s expensive, doesn’t mean it’s better.
MYTHS ABOUT GENERIC DRUGS
True or False: Generic drugs are not as strong as the original drug.
FALSE. FDA requires that the active ingredient in both drugs be the same.
True or False: Generic drugs take longer to work in the body.
FALSE. If a company wants to market a generic version of a drug it has to prove that it works the same. That testing also means that a generic drug is just as safe as a brand name one.
True or False: Generic drugs are cheaper than brand name drugs.
TRUE. Generic drugs cost less to produce because they don’t have to repeat the animal and clinical studies that the original drug needed.
Here is an infographic from the FDA about generic drugs:
CLINICAL TRIALS FOR GENERIC BIOLOGICS
If a company wants to prove their products work as well as the brand name drug, they have to do clinical trials. I would be willing to be on a clinical trial for this. You can find clinical trials by visiting www.clinicaltrials.gov or by visiting our partners, Clara Health, who match people with clinical trials that suit them.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
There are millions of baby boomers coming of retirement age and I am one of them. When I leave my job I will no longer have this great insurance that will pay $84k for one drug. What will we do?
One final thought; even if your drug is not a biologic, talk to your doctor about the best course of treatment. Some medicines don’t have a generic version but your doctor can see if there are alternatives you can try. You may find the savings well worth it.
We as patients should always look ahead and find ways to make life better for us. Never give up the fight. By choosing to move forward, so many doors have opened up for me. I am not alone in this battle and neither are you. Tomorrow is a new day, but let’s get by this day first.
Diane Talbert is a blogger, patient advocate and speaker for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. She has been an advocate for this disease for over a decade now. She has run support groups in the Maryland, DC and Virginia area, is a volunteer for several organizations and vows to help find a cure for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and stop the stigma associated with it. She loves being a wife, mother and grandmother.