May 28, 2019
It has been some time coming but the speculation is over now. BC is the first province to switch patients from certain innovator biologics to their biosimilars. The initiative started May 27, 2019 and the transition period will end November 25, 2019. During this time BC PharmaCare will cover both originator and biosimilar versions of the affected drugs to allow patients time to inform themselves and start the switching process with their prescriber. Effective November 26, 2019, PharmaCare will only cover the biosimilar versions for these medications and for the listed indication:
A number of associations and groups support this strategy. Coincidentally, the Canadian Rheumatologist Association recently posted their position on biosimilars, “Rheumatologists should consider choosing the most cost-effective product when there is a choice available between an originator biologic and a biosimilar and must be mindful of cost savings.”(1)
British Columbia says it will save more than $96 million in its prescription drug program by expanding the use of these biosimilar drugs which were the single biggest expense for the public drug plan in 2018. 20,000 BC residents will be affected by this change in policy. Reportedly, the savings will be re-directed to cover other medications that have not been covered previously, such as JARDIANCE (diabetes) and TALZ (psoriatic arthritis).(2) There will be an exception process.
Last week, we noted CADTH’s decision to forgo reviewing biosimilar drugs, a huge time-consuming step that was omitted to speed up the process for biosimilar coverage. Now in BC, biosimilars, once listed on provincial formularies will have exclusivity over their reference biologics. We expect other provinces will follow suite with this type of biosimilar approach. Which province do you think goes next?