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Approval process for dispensing 'biosimilar' medications passes Pennsylvania Senate

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HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania — Pennsylvania state senators passed legislation to require physician approval before dispensing alternatives to patented biological medicines over the protests of insurance companies and pharmacists.

The Senate voted 44-6 for the bill. It is supported by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which represents major pharmaceutical makers. The sponsor, Sen. Pat Vance, called it a patient safety bill.

It would require a pharmacist to notify the prescribing physician before dispensing what is called a biosimilar medication.

Drugmakers say the notification is essential because biosimilars aren't identical to the biological medication they'd replace.

But the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association say the extra steps would undermine the use and development of biosimilars, which are less expensive than brand-name drugs.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn't approved any biosimilar medications yet.

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