Biologics: The new drug

Biologics: The new drugIf you have followed recent health news, you’ve likely heard the word “biologics”. They’re certainly big news in the benefits world.  Biologics are a class of prescription drug and, while they’re not exactly new on the market, they are new in terms of drug coverage.

A biologic is a drug that’s derived from bacteria and micro-organisms, blood and blood products or through specialized procedures such as recombinant DNA processes. The main difference between biologics and traditional medications is that biologics are created from living cells, tissues or micro-organisms and they require a much more complex manufacturing process. Traditional drugs are chemically synthesized, making them much easier to duplicate than biologics. As a result of the complexity of biologics, they are understandably much more expensive for benefits plan sponsors and consumers.

While cost is the bad news when it comes to biologics, the good news is that they can be extremely effective in improving the health of those with chronic ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, colitis, psoriasis and other illnesses. As such, benefits plan sponsors are understandably stuck between a rock and a hard place: how do they cover the costs of drugs that are extremely expensive, but that can help employees with chronic illnesses return to work faster?

There’s no quick and easy answer, but simply being aware of biologics and where they’re moving on the market can help plan sponsors to better prepare themselves for growing costs. As well, it’s important to note that there are different classes of biologics and that more cost-effective versions may be available.

It’s also important for plan members to understand why biologics are more expensive. By educating members on the various types of drugs and the associated cost of them, employers can help to control the overall cost of their drug plans.