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Ontario Needs Biosimilars Switching Policy Without Delay

The impacts of COVID-19 on Ontario’s healthcare system and economy will be long lasting and require the Government of Ontario to be a strong fiscal manager despite growing demands on limited resources. Unfortunately, due to inefficient policies the Government of Ontario is spending $3.1 million more than it needs to on off-patent biologic drugs every single week – wasted money that could instead be used to provide new coverage for other drugs Ontario patients need, including those who live with rare diseases.

Patients with chronic diseases typically use a biologic medicine for many years. Off-patent versions of these medicines called biosimilars cannot fully contribute to health care sustainability unless patients on existing original biologic medicines are transitioned to lower-cost biosimilar biologic medicines. The well-controlled switching of patients from original biologic drugs to available biosimilars would save Ontario more than $161 million annually (+$3.1 million weekly) once fully implemented, while continuing to provide patients with safe and efficacious treatments and high-quality services they need and expect.

Patients and healthcare providers can and should feel confident in the use of biosimilar medicines. Health Canada is unequivocal in its public statements: “There are no expected clinically meaningful differences in efficacy and safety between a biosimilar and the biologic drug” and “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.”

Such biosimilar switching initiatives have already been successfully implemented by the governments of Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick. These provinces have reinvested the savings into their healthcare systems and provided coverage for innovative new therapies. The transitioning of patients has continued to be done safely during the pandemic.

In addition, several biosimilars companies have significant pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada. The implementation of a switching policy would support continued investment in made-in-Ontario and made-in-Canada medicines.

Action is Needed Now

Taxpayers need the Government of Ontario to make better use of its limited financial resources without delay. A biosimilar switching policy would yield significant savings, enable the province to expand coverage to include new medicines and strengthen the life sciences investment climate in Ontario – while continuing to provide patients with the safe and effective treatments and high-quality services they need and expect.

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