When it comes to protecting chronically ill patients over healthcare special interests, you’d think that Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Burbank) would be on our side. However, recent legislation, which passed overwhelmingly in the state Legislature with bipartisan support, has suddenly stalled in his Assembly Appropriations Committee.

[Editor's Note: The writer revised his opinion in a later letter. See: "Oops. He had incorrect information."]

The delivery of optimal health care for patients is constantly evolving and recent developments are some of the most profound I’ve witnessed in my career. However, these futuristic changes are also bringing consequences of concern related to patient safety.

Innovative, scientific advancements have led to the creation of more effective prescription drugs. Biologics are now being created from living organisms to treat cancer, HIV/AIDS, MS, Parkinson’s and many other debilitating illnesses with remarkable results. These advanced drugs contain an incredibly high level of molecular complexity. And unlike chemical drugs, there is no generic form of a biologic. Biosimilars aim to replicate — they are not the same and are not generic because do not utilize the same living cell line, production process, or raw material as the biologic.

Patients, physicians and pharmacists have to collaborate when battling a serious disease, especially when the patient is being treated with complex biotech drugs. Because communication between the three parties is so critically important, Senate Bill 598 was introduced to ensure safeguards when it comes to the substitution of biosimilar medications.

Leaving patients and physicians in the dark as to when a substitution occurs is spinning the healthcare roulette wheel. Let’s ensure patient safety across California when it comes to biosimilar medicines and require pharmacists to notify physicians when a life-saving medicine is switched for something else.

Assemblyman Gatto should consider hearing this important piece of legislation and joining his colleagues who support Senate Bill 598. Special-interest politics should never trump patient safety.

Dr. Gerald N. Felando
San Pedro

Editor's note: The writer, a Republican, served in the California Legislature from 1979 to 1992.