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Washington State House of Representatives Health Care & Wellness Committee

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AUTHOR: 50SN Staff

DATE: Mar 24, 2015


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Washington State House of Representatives Health Care & Wellness Committee


Washington State House of Representatives Health Care & Wellness Committee

House Health Care & Wellness Committee consideration of SB 5935

Lisa Powell
Patient Advocate
Global Healthy Living Foundation

March 24, 2015


I have no disclosures to make regarding my travel here today. The Global Healthy Living Foundation accepts grants and charitable contributions from pharmaceutical companies, government, private foundations and individuals. We have received scientific briefings from pharmaceutical companies, as well as from our independent medical advisory board.

Good afternoon. Chairman, I’d like to thank you for allowing me to speak today. My name is Lisa Powell. I have lived in Lake Stevens, Washington for nearly 15 years. The legislators that serve my community are Senator Steve Hobbs, Representative Hans Dunshee, and Representative Mark Harmsworth. I’m here today representing myself, CreakyJoints, an arthritis support organization which is part of the Global Healthy Living Foundation, and other people in Washington who are, or will be taking biologics and interchangeable biosimilars.

I am here to speak in support of Senate Bill 5935. More specifically I support the notification requirements Senate Bill 5935 contains. I have taken six biologics to treat my rheumatoid arthritis for four years and experienced serious adverse reactions from some of them. Prior to 2011 I lived a very active lifestyle, walking and running 3 miles a day – I even attained a black belt in tae kwon do. After not being able to fully recover from a routine surgical procedure in 2011, my physician referred me to a rheumatologist.

Over the next several months my rheumatologist and I worked closely to try and pin point exactly what was wrong with me. Eventually after months of evaluations, lab tests, and medical imaging it was determined that I have RA. Luckily I have an excellent relationship with my doctor that is built on trust. He listens to my description of symptoms that don’t always match lab results or disease metrics. I follow his guidance and stay patient and committed to the therapies he provides when at first they may seem ineffective.

My physician and I have gone through six biologics before we identified the one that has stabilized my disease. The path to get here has not been an easy one. Some biologics have simply been ineffective, others have worked for a period of time then stopped working, and others have caused serious and dangerous adverse reactions. One of which resulted in me suffering permanent liver damage.

Interchangeable biosimilars are incredibly promising because they offer someone like me additional treatment options. While the biologic I am on now is currently working, if it stops there are only a finite number of biologics left that I can turn to. For people like me interchangeable biosimilars represent hope. Hope for healing, hope for a better future. However, the promise that interchangeable biosimilars offer can be threatened if we are not cautious about how they are substituted.

I support SB 5935 because:

  •  First, it allows physicians to prevent substitution if they believe it is medically necessary.
  • Second, it requires pharmacists to notify a physician of substitution by entering the product information into the electronic health record. If EHR isn’t available they must do so by fax, email, or phone.
  • Lastly, the legislation requires pharmacies to post a sign at the counter that informs patients that substitution may occur with their doctor’s consent.

In my mind this is not an argument reserved for corporations, their products, profits, or interests. It is an argument about protecting the patient-physician relationship. It is an argument about people and what information we need in order to feel better, to control our chronic illness, and to stay alive when the worst happens.

I want to be very clear when I say that I am not here to talk about whether biosimilars should or should not be on the market or whether insurance companies should be able to influence what drug a patient takes. If a drug is approved by the FDA, I assume it is safe and effective. If my insurance company wants to switch a drug that the FDA says it can switch, I trust the FDA’s decision and will take that drug. I am only asking that I, and my doctor, know what drug that is. As patients we don’t want to give that up. And as compassionate legislators, you can’t let that happen. My doctor knew what drug I was taking when I experienced a serious reaction that damaged my liver and we were able to control it and treat it. What would have happened if he and I were not able to pin point what drug had been dispensed to me?

GHLF and I urge the members of this Committee to support Senate Bill 5935. I appreciate your thoughtful consideration of my remarks and I would be pleased to provide any further information that you may require. Thank you for your time and attention