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The high cost of medical care is one of the issues that most directly affect individuals and families. Historically, high initial investments in capital and a strict regulatory regime have effectively limited competition in many sectors of the medical industry. But thanks to advances in technology and a changing regulatory environment, some of that is starting to change.
The pharmaceutical industry is one example of a market where competition trying to burst forward in previously unseen ways. Pharmaceuticals made through biological processes acting on living organisms represent a growing share of domestic spending on medicine, but due to the high cost of name brand drugs, known as biologics, this technology has remained largely unavailable to most patients.
Now, medically-identical copies of biologics—called biosimilars—have started to gain traction as a lower-cost alternative. Biosimilars have been widely accepted in Europe for some time, but it was not until 2010 that they became legal in the United States. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration granted approval for the first biosimilar for sale in America, a drug designed to reduce inflammation in chemotherapy patients.