Imagine that your pharmacist substituted the biologic drug prescribed by your physician for a different drug, an interchangeable biologic product, without your physician being informed. For many people in Ohio who are taking biologic drugs, this scary scenario was a potential reality.
House Bill 505 (HB505) was signed into law by Governor Kasich earlier today. The bill outlines parameters for substitution of interchangeable biologic drugs, guaranteeing patients have access to high quality and safe biologic medicines. It also requires pharmacists to notify physicians when interchangeable biologic drug substitutions are made, thus allowing physicians to maintain accurate medical records and knowingly respond if complications or adverse side effects occur. It is hoped that these new medications, when introduced into the market, will be less costly making access more attainable.
Many Arthritis Foundation Ambassadors, including Nikki Domers and Joanna Helon, played key roles in passage of HB505, educating Ohio legislators about the value of biologics in treating various forms of arthritis, expressing the need for better access to these costly medications, and assuring that the patient-provider relationship was maintained.
Domers wrote a letter to the editor of the Akron Beacon Journal stating, “…because of the complex nature of the diseases being treated by biologics, it is crucial that the medical team is aware of any substitutions. Even small changes can affect treatment. Prescriber communication allows for the patient and doctors to proactively monitor for any potential adverse events and ensure that the new drug is working with the same efficiency without causing undue harm to the patient.”
Several weeks ago Joanna Helon, who is also the Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run national adult honoree, testified before the Ohio Senate Health and Human Services Committee, helping them understand how treatment of juvenile idiopathic arthritis with biologics has positively changed outcomes.
“During these past thirty years, I have seen treatment progress and I have seen kids with arthritis benefit from more aggressive and effective medications,” said Helon. “When I was first diagnosed, I took 36 baby aspirin every day and received gold shots. I now take a biologic injection once a week. When I was first diagnosed, compared to what is available now in treatment options, there is a big difference! And the medications now actually modify the disease, which is significant. I have heard countless stories of people with arthritis whose lives have been radically changed for the better because of the development to biologic medications. I am so glad that because of these treatments, many children diagnosed today will not suffer the pain and joint damage that I have.”
Thanks are due to many other Advocates and Ambassadors who worked for passage of HB505 by attending the 2016 Ohio Capitol Day, writing letters and making calls to their legislators, and our friends in the Ohio Association of Rheumatology who partnered with us on many initiatives.
These important victories don’t happen without participation and support from people who are affected by arthritis – people like you! Get involved by attending the 2017 Ohio Capitol Day on May 4 in Columbus, or the 2017 Advocacy Summit, March 6-7, in Washington, DC.