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Drugs on shelfThough it could take years to successfully bring a new product to the market, the move would put the nation’s most populous state in direct competition with major drug manufacturers. (Photo: iviewfinder/Shutterstock.com)

SACRAMENTO — California is poised to become the first state to develop its own line of generic drugs, targeting soaring drug prices and stepping into a fiercely competitive drug market dominated by deep-pocketed pharmaceutical companies.

The Democratic-controlled legislature overwhelmingly approved a measure Monday that would direct the state’s top health agency to partner with one or more drug companies by January to make or distribute a broad range of generic or biosimilar drugs — including the diabetes medicine insulin — that are cheaper than brand-name products.

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