BC Legislature
(File photo)

Patients suffering from diabetes, arthritis, and psoriasis are encouraged to transition their prescriptions to cheaper “biosimilar” drugs over the next six months.

In a statement this morning, BC Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the expansion of the use of ‘biosimilars’ or drugs that copy the exact make-up of “biologic” or bioengineered drugs.

The province states that these treatment options are highly similar to their original counterparts, but cost 25% – 50% less.

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British Columbians living with ankylosing spondylitis, diabetes, plaque psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis have six months to transition their prescriptions over to biosimilar drugs like Jardiance for diabetes, as well as the psoriatic arthritis drug Taltz.

After November 25th, 2019, PharmaCare will stop coverage of the original biologic drug for these indications, except for exceptional cases.

“B.C. is leading the country by promoting the widespread use of biosimilars, which have been proven to work just as safely and effectively as higher priced biologics. To date, Canada is far behind European jurisdictions,” said Adrian Dix.

“Biosimilars are a necessary step to ensure PharmaCare provides existing coverage for more people and funds new drugs well into the future.”

Further details

The switch to biosimilars will also be applied to roughly 2,700 Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis patients in the coming months, and more information for gastroenterology patients will be made available this summer.

According to the province, increasing the use of biosimilar drugs is expected to save BC around $96.6 million over the first three years – an amount which will be redirected to support additional drug listings and improved patient coverage.

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“We know that our use rates can be much higher. For example, the biosimilars for infliximab (known as Inflectra and Remsima) have combined 5 to 10% use rate in Canada after four years on the market, compared to Norway (98%), United Kingdom (90%) and Scotland (85%),” added Dix. ”

As a result, in 2017, Canada spent over $1.1 billion on the original biologic drug called Remicade.”

The diabetes drug Jardiance (empagliflozin) and the psoriatic arthritis drug Taltz (ixekizumab) have both been added as a limited coverage benefit under PharmaCare as of today.

PharmaCare will also be broadening coverage for several drugs used for arthritis, like DMARDs, certolizumab, leflunomide, rituximab, tocilizumab, and tofacitinib.

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