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Canada’s Largest Public Drug Plan Announces Transition to Cost-Saving Biosimilar Medicines

Toronto – December 20, 2022 – Biosimilars Canada, a national association representing Canada’s biosimilar medicines industry, today welcomed the announcement by Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones that the province will implement a “switching” or transitioning policy to expand the use of biosimilar biologic medicines for the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) program in 2023.

The ODB is the largest public drug plan in Canada, and accounts for about 40% of public drug spending in this country.

“Biosimilars Canada and its member companies congratulate Minister Jones and the Government of Ontario for moving ahead with a biosimilars switching policy, and remain committed to working with the government, specialists, and other stakeholders to ensure the smooth transition to biosimilars for Ontarians,” said Jim Keon, President of Biosimilars Canada.

“Expanding the use of biosimilars will support reinvestment in Ontario’s drug program and encourage companies to bring more cost-saving medicines to market,” said Keon. “Today’s announcement means patients will continue to have access to high-quality treatments and support services they need, while also supporting investment in the life sciences sector.”

Minister Jones confirmed in her announcement that switching to biosimilars will allow Ontario to invest more in new and innovative drug treatments and continue to grow the roster of publicly funded life-saving drugs.

Ontario is the seventh province – and eighth jurisdiction in Canada – to announce a biosimilars switching policy. The Ontario announcement follows British Columbia (May 2019), Alberta (December 2019), New Brunswick (April 2021), Quebec (July 2021), the Northwest Territories (December 2021), Nova Scotia (February 2022) and Saskatchewan (October 2022).

Patients covered by the ODB who use certain biologic drugs to treat such diseases as arthritis, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis will switch to a biosimilar version of the medicine under the supervision of their treating physician between March 31, 2023 and December 29, 2023. This evidence-informed strategy will optimize public resources to ensure the best value for treatments, improve access to medications for patients and contribute to the sustainability of the public drug plans.

Switching from an originator biologic drug to a biosimilar is a safe and effective practice. Health Canada confirms that “patients and health care providers can have confidence that biosimilars are effective and safe for each of their authorized indications, and that no differences are expected in efficacy and safety following a change in routine use between a biosimilar and its reference biologic drug in an authorized indication.” 1

Biologic medicines have revolutionized the treatment of many disabling and life-threatening diseases. They can, however, cost $10,000 to $25,000 or more to treat a patient for a year, which is placing an enormous financial strain on drug budgets.

The full benefits of biosimilars cannot be realized unless drug plans adopt policies that support their expanded use with the implementation of successful biosimilar transitioning or “switching” policy. Under these policies patients who use a biologic drug to treat a chronic condition are transitioned or “switched” from an original biologic drug to a biosimilar biologic drug under the supervision of their treating physician.

There is extensive real-world experience with biosimilars in Canada, with more than 1.5 million retail prescriptions filled annually, according to market data from IQVIA. Biosimilars are also used extensively in the hospital and oncology markets. There have also been more than 178 clinical trials worldwide involving approximately 21,000 switched patients, which confirm that switching from an originator biologic drug to a biosimilar biologic drug is not associated with any major efficacy, safety, or immunogenicity issues. 2

About Biosimilars Canada
Biosimilars Canada is a national association representing the biosimilar medicines industry in Canada. Our member companies are at the forefront of the global development and marketing of biosimilar medicines. Biosimilars Canada provides leadership in educating Canadian stakeholders about the safety and efficacy of biosimilar medicines, and advocates for policies that support their timely approval, reimbursement, market acceptance and expanded use. Biosimilars Canada is a division of the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association. Visit us at

About Biosimilar Medicines 3
A biosimilar biologic drug, or biosimilar, is a drug demonstrated to be highly similar to a biologic drug that was already authorized for sale. Health Canada evaluates all the information provided to confirm that the biosimilar and the reference biologic drug are similar and that there are no clinically meaningful differences in safety and efficacy between them. Health Canada’s rigorous standards for authorization mean that you can have the same confidence in the quality, safety and efficacy of a biosimilar as any other biologic drug.

Jeff Connell
Vice President, Corporate Affairs
Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association (CGPA)
Mobile: (647) 274-3379  |  Email:

[1]  Health Canada, Biosimilar biologic drugs in Canada: Fact Sheet.

[2] Barbier, L. et. al. The Efficacy, Safety, and Immunogenicity of Switching Between Reference Biopharmaceuticals and Biosimilars: A Systematic Review, March 31, 2020.

[3] Health Canada, Biosimilar biologic drugs in Canada: Fact Sheet