Health Benefits

Biosimilar First Program Earns CalPERS a Moonshot Award


CalPERS was recently named a “Health Care Affordability and Accountability Innovator” in recognition of its Biosimilar First program.

The Moonshot Award, given out annually by the Purchaser Business Group on Health, recognizes employers and health care purchasers that are “reimagining the status quo to improve health care quality, affordability and equity.”

Biosimilars are complex medications that are considerably less costly than their brand-name biologic counterparts. However, their utilization has been stymied by a lack of patient and physician familiarity, and a range of industry barriers. Since CalPERS’ Biosimilar First initiative was launched in 2021 with our Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) health plan, the program has generated significant prescription cost savings.

“Biosimilars play a critical role in our ability to lower health care costs while offering the same efficacy and safety profile as the original biologic drugs,” said Dr. Melissa Mantong, pharmaceutical consultant II at CalPERS.

The Biosimilar First program, in partnership with our Anthem PPO Basic plan, requires the use of biosimilars for new adult patients when a biosimilar is available and clinically appropriate. In 2022, the Biosimilar First program expanded to include all drugs with available biosimilars and has achieved widespread patient and clinician acceptance.

“Today we’re exploring expanding the Biosimilars First program to all our health plans and are in conversations with our pharmacy benefit managers on a similar biosimilar program,” Dr. Mantong said. Dr. Mantong will also be presenting the results of the program to CalPERS PBGH member colleagues in mid-February.

Learn more about biosimilars and our efforts to gain broader acceptance in this recent PERSpective article.