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8/2/2016 Governor signs legislation that allows and regulates pharmacies to dispense biological products
STATE HOUSE — Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation introduced by Rep. Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) and Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) that allows pharmacies to dispense biological products and interchangeable biological products, which are used to treat high-risk patients who don’t respond to traditional medication.

The law (2016-H 7816Aaa, 2016-S 2755Baa) also regulates the procedures pharmacies use for dispensing and substitution.

“This is legislation that will create savings for patients, particularly those who are suffering from a serious illness by giving them low-cost options,” said Representative Serpa. “And the entry of these products into the marketplace will encourage the presence of the biotechnology industry, which already has a foothold in Rhode Island. That means more jobs in an industry known for its high-paying positions.”

Biologic medicines are much more complex than traditional chemically synthesized drugs. Biologics are manufactured from living organisms by programming cell lines to produce the desired therapeutic substances and consist of large molecules. Common biologics in use today include injectable treatments for arthritis, medicines for cancer, diabetes, psoriasis, Crohn's disease, psoriasis, the Hepatitis B vaccine and future stem cell therapy.

“In April, the FDA approved a cheaper version of the drug Remicade, a high-priced biotech medicine that used to treat inflammatory diseases,” said Senator Coyne. “That’s the second time a generic biotech drug has been approved in the U.S. These drugs have the potential to generate a lot in savings for patients, and it’s imperative that state law stays up-to-date with this biotechnology.”

The procedure outlined in the legislation will work similarly to the way pharmacies currently allow generic substitutions on medication. The language in the bill is the culmination of industrywide discussion that included medical, pharmacy and biotechnology professionals. Rhode Island joins 22 other states that have passed similar legislation.

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903