Toronto – October 20, 2022 – Biosimilars Canada, a national association representing Canada’s biosimilar medicines industry, today welcomed the announcement by the Government of Saskatchewan that it will implement a “switching” or transitioning policy to expand the use of biosimilar medicines under its public drug programs.
“Biosimilars Canada congratulates Health Minister Paul Merriman and the Government of Saskatchewan for implementing a biosimilar switching policy and reinvesting the savings to support patient access to public drug coverage and new drug benefits,” said Jim Keon, President of Biosimilars Canada.
Saskatchewan is the sixth province – and seventh jurisdiction in Canada – to implement a biosimilars switching policy. The Saskatchewan announcement follows British Columbia (May 2019), Alberta (December 2019), New Brunswick (April 2021), Quebec (July 2021), the Northwest Territories (December 2021) and Nova Scotia (February 2022).
Approximately 24,000 existing patients already receiving an original biologic drug in Saskatchewan are expected to transition to a biosimilar version over the next six months. The Ministry of Health estimates that the province will see annual savings of approximately $20 million once patients complete the transition to biosimilars. Minister Merriman confirmed in the announcement that the savings will be reinvested into the drug plan.
“Expanding the use of biosimilars through a switching policy is an important way to ensure the sustainability of drug plans and make the most effective use of taxpayer dollars,” said Keon. “Biosimilars Canada encourages Ontario, Manitoba, and other jurisdictions to follow Saskatchewan’s lead in making the switch to biosimilars without delay.”
Patients covered by the Saskatchewan Drug Plan 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 within the next six months, by April 30, 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.
“Biosimilars Canada and its member companies look forward to working with the Government of Saskatchewan to ensure the successful implementation of its biosimilars switching policy,” added Keon.
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 $1.2 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 www.biosimilarscanada.ca.
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.
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Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association (CGPA)
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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