Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Cheap, Generic 'Biologics' on the Way?

Congress Considers Allowing Companies to Make Low-Cost Copies of Drugs Like Insulin
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 8, 2007 -- High-cost drugs like insulin and new-generation rheumatoid arthritis medications could soon become a lot cheaper. That is, if Congress can succeed in finding a way to approve them as generics.

The issue could affect a wide range of high-priced drugs and vaccines that are called "biologics" because they’re produced by living cells under controlled conditions.

Insulin, a widely-prescribed biologic used by millions of people with diabetes, can cost patients $1,500 per year. Some newer biologics used to treat cancer can cost close to $50,000 per year. Rituxan, a biologic that targets immune cells and treats rheumatoid arthritis and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, can cost more than $10,000 per treatment course.

But the FDA has no standard for proving lower-cost generic versions of biologics equivalent to the parent drugs. That has kept them off the U.S. market.

Consumer groups and businesses are now calling for a standard that would let generic companies gain government approval of copies once a brand-name biologic’s patent expires. Such a standard, they say, could save billions in health costs.

"This is our single fastest growing category of health costs, and the trend is simply not sustainable," Sid Banwart, a Caterpillar Inc. vice president, told a Senate hearing Thursday.

He said the company has spent $150 million on prescription benefits last year and that spending on biologics went up 45% since 2001.

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing