Dix welcomes Alberta’s decision to expand use of biosimilars

Adrian Dix

‘Biosimilars have been proven to work just as safely and effectively as higher priced biologics’

ADRIAN Dix, B.C.’s Minister of Health, has welcomed the Government of Alberta’s decision to expand the use of biosimilars.

In a statement, Dix said on Thursday: “It is the right thing to do and shows the advantages of our ongoing work together on PharmaCare issues.

“In May of this year, B.C. became the first province in Canada to adopt a policy to expand the use of biosimilars and we hope and expect to continue to see more provinces join us.

“As more health-care systems move to promote the use of biosimilars, patients across the country will be the beneficiaries as major cost savings are reinvested to expand coverage for other drugs.

“Under B.C.’s biosimilars initiative alone, close to $100 million in savings is being reinvested into more health care over three years. For example, in B.C., the use of these drugs has led to expanded coverage for diabetes and arthritis drugs, and new programs for patients with complex inflammatory bowel disease.

“Canada is significantly behind other jurisdictions in the use of biosimilars. For example, the biosimilars for infliximab, also known as Inflectra and Renflexis, have a combined 8% use rate in Canada after four years on the market, compared to Norway at 98%, the United Kingdom at 90% and Scotland at 85%.

“Biosimilars have been proven to work just as safely and effectively as higher priced biologics. Patients making the switch to a biosimilar in B.C. have six months to work with their health-care teams to transition their prescription from the biologic to a biosimilar, and the switches are going well.

“We estimate that up to 70% of infliximab and etanercept patients have switched over to a biosimilar. Approximately 33% of those on insulin glargine have made the change, and about 25% of Phase 2 gastrointestinal patients on infliximab have also switched.

“Shifting to the use of biosimilars is the right decision for Canadians – both as taxpayers and as patients. There are many new, expensive drugs for rare diseases that provide hope for many, which means we need to take steps to make our PharmaCare programs more efficient. Alberta has taken a great step forward in doing just that.”