(BPT) - You might not know that generic and biosimilar medicines save Medicare, Medicaid and privately insured patients billions of dollars every year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these safe, effective FDA-approved drugs are also saving lives.
In the early days of the pandemic, personal protective equipment and many consumer goods were in short supply, but health-preserving and lifesaving medicines for major and minor conditions continued to flow to pharmacies and hospitals.
At a recent conference where she appeared on a panel discussing her experience treating COVID patients, Alexandra (Alex) Pratt, M.D., Chair of the Department of Critical Care at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, explained, "Nearly everything that we used in the ICU was generic or biosimilar. Generic sedatives, analgesics, steroids, vasoactives, anticoagulants, were all absolutely critical to the management of this pandemic. Patients would certainly have died if we did not have access to these medications. And we were very grateful that we never had a disruption in the supply of those medications." Dr. Derek Angus, critical care chief at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, referred to a study confirming the effectiveness of generic steroids as the “most solid news we’ve had yet on how to take care of patients with COVID-19.”
Today, mass distribution of vaccines is under way, but until we have all been vaccinated and herd immunity has been reached, thousands of patients will require care and treatment — and generics and biosimilars will be there for them.
While Pratt and her peers across the nation had the medicines they needed when they needed them, efforts are under way to ensure the continued availability of prescription medicines. The Association for Accessible Medicines (AAM) has published a Blueprint for Enhancing the Security of the U.S. Pharmaceutical Supply Chain, envisioning greater domestic production of priority medicines through tax incentives, strategic stockpiling and guaranteed contracts, among other measures.
“Our association and the makers of generic and biosimilar medicines believe in reinforcing this public health and economic asset,” says Dan Leonard, CEO of AAM. (Discover their SecureOurMeds campaign.) “Strengthening the supply chain and enhancing our already significant manufacturing presence in America will require the commitment of the government to complement the commitment of our industry.”
While Americans hailed frontline staff in hospitals and health care facilities, credit also goes to professionals in facilities, labs and offices that make up the nation’s medicine supply chain. The nation owes a debt of gratitude to people like Roby Epting, manager of second-shift operations at generics manufacturer Sandoz in Wilson, North Carolina, who rose to the unprecedented challenges of a global pandemic and worked around the clock to ensure that medicines reached patients in America and around the world.
Sweta Modha, a packaging technician at generics manufacturer Apotex, expressed pride in the role she played in “maintaining the supply continuity of essential medicines that are required in the fight against COVID.”
Safe and effective medicine has never been more important to America than in the past year and a half. During one of the darkest times in our nation’s history, reliable generic and biosimilar medicines played an important role on the front lines of the war against COVID-19. Further increasing patient access will protect the health and increase the quality of life for millions of Americans.
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