A controversial and heavily lobbied bill establishing a protocol for when pharmacists may substitute a "biosimilar" drug passed 58-4 in the Assembly on Monday.
Senate Bill 598 is supported by drug companies and some labor groups who say regulation will protect consumers once biosimilars are approved by the federal government. The bill would allow pharmacists to substitute biosimilars in the same way they currently substitute generic drugs for name brands.
However, unlike generic medicines, a biosimilar is not identical to the brand name drug being replaced.
Opponents of the bill, which include health plans and the state Board of Pharmacy, say it sets arbitrary barriers to providing affordable replacements.
The bill, by Democrat Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo heads back to the Senate later this week for concurrence in amendments.