- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - In a story Nov. 11 on a measure signed by Gov. Chris Christie, The Associated Press reported erroneously what the new law would do. The measure allows pharmacists to substitute certain discounted versions of biologic drugs, but it doesn’t allow for the sale of a particular biosimilar drug. The AP also erroneously reported the name of the organization led by Jim Greenwood. He is CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, not BioNJ.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Christie signs measure to allow biologic drug substitutions

Gov. Chris Christie approves measure to allow pharmacies to substitute discounted biologic drugs

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation this week that allows pharmacists to substitute certain discounted versions of biologic drugs.

Biologic drugs are injected or infused medicines for very serious conditions such as cancer and immune system disorders that can cost $100,000 or more.

“This legislation will provide patients with more opportunities to address their unmet medical needs, particularly severely ill patients who rely on cutting-edge medical treatments,” said Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

The measure signed by Christie on Monday gives pharmacists the power to fill substitute prescriptions for certain interchangeable biologic drugs in the state once they’re approved by the FDA. Eleven other states and Puerto Rico have enacted the new rules this year, but the FDA has yet to grant any interchangeable designations in the U.S.

Unlike traditional pills made by mixing chemicals, biologic drugs are made from proteins grown in living cells, nourished in nutrient broths inside sterile bioreactor tanks. The process can take weeks and requires precise control of temperature, oxygen level and other conditions. The proteins are then filtered out of the cells, purified, mixed with a sterile injectable solution and put into vials or syringes. Biosimilars are made the same way.

“The FDA has created a safe pathway to make alternative biological medicines more readily available on the market,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, who co-sponsored the legislation. “If there is a more cost-effective option to treat and cure various illnesses, then by all means we should be helping patients pursue it.”

Biologic drugs include vaccines and other complex medicines, including ones that incorporate antibodies to target where they’re needed. Last year, six of the 10 bestselling medicines globally were biologics, with about $49 billion in combined sales.

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