News | May 19, 2021

Quebec Announces Intention To Implement A Biosimilar Switching Policy

Toronto, ON /CNW/ - Biosimilars Canada today congratulated the Government of Quebec and Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé for announcing the province's intention to implement a biosimilar switching policy under its public prescription drug insurance plan.

The expanded use of biosimilars in Quebec is expected to generate annual savings of $100Mn as of 2022. These savings will be reinvested into the healthcare system and will also improve access to innovative drug therapies, according to Minister Dubé. Under the policy, patients who are being treated with an originator biologic drug for which a biosimilar biologic drug is available will switch to a biosimilar under the supervision of their treating physician by April 12, 2022. The government will be providing further details on its switching policy in the coming weeks.

Quebec is home to the second largest provincial drug plan in Canada, and is the fourth province to announce its intention to implement a biosimilar switching policy.

"Biosimilars Canada congratulates the Government of Quebec and Minister Dubé for prioritizing the expanded use of biosimilar medicines in the province to generate important savings and reinvest in Quebec's healthcare system," said Michel Robidoux, Chair of Biosimilars Canada.

Biologic medicines have revolutionized the treatment of many debilitating and life-threatening diseases, including arthritis, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis. It can cost $10,000 to $25,000 or more to treat a single patient with a biologic drug for a year, which is placing an enormous financial strain on the province's drug budget. The COVID-19 pandemic has also burdened healthcare systems and public finances like never before.

Switching to biosimilars represents an important way to control healthcare spending and fund coverage for new treatments, while supporting high quality patient care and treatment outcomes.

"Biosimilar switching policies are essential to ensuring the long-term sustainability of drug benefit plans and healthcare systems," said Jim Keon, President of Biosimilars Canada.

British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick have implemented switching policies in recent years to ensure the use of cost-saving biosimilars1,2,3. Quebecers indicated their support for a provincial switching policy in a recent poll, with 85 per cent in favour of switching from originator biologic drugs to biosimilar biologic drugs.4

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."5

There is extensive real-world experience with biosimilars in Canada, with more than 600,000 retail prescriptions filled annually, according to IQVIA data. 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.6

Biosimilars Canada looks forward to working with the government and supporting the implementation of the new policy as further details become available.

The Government of Quebec's announcement is available at the following link and more information can be found on the ministry website here.

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 Medicines7
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.

1 B.C. Pharmacare website, Biosimilars Information for Patients.

2 Alberta Ministry of Health website Biosimilar drugs.

3 New Brunswick website, Biosimilars Initiative.

4 La Presse, Les Québécois sont prêts, révèle un sondage CROP, April 19, 2021.

5 Health Canada, Biosimilar biologic drugs in Canada: Fact Sheet.

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

7 Health Canada, Biosimilar biologic drugs in Canada: Fact Sheet.

Source: Biosimilars Canada

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