Biologically created drugs are the biggest cost for public health plans like B.C. Pharmacare. (Flickr)

B.C. Pharmacare expanding use of ‘biosimilar’ drugs to save money

Europe far ahead of Canada in adopting alternative treatments

Bioengineered drugs for conditions such as diabetes and arthritis are the most expensive part of B.C.’s Pharmacare and other public drug plans, and new alternatives are being introduced.

The shift began Monday with the introduction of a diabetes drug called Jardiance, and a psoriatic arthritis drug called Talz. Coverage is also enhanced for arthritis treatments including certolizumab, leflunomide, rituximab, tocilizumab and tofacitinab.

A list of affected drug treatments can be found here.

The change is expected to save the province $96 million over the first three years, Health Minister Adrian Dix said. B.C. is following the lead of Europe in moving to alternative drugs, replacing patented treatments made from biological sources such as yeasts.

Medical experts say “biosimilars” are genetically as identical as these types of drugs can be. Affected patients in B.C. will be given a six-month transition period with their doctors to introduce the alternative treatments and identify exceptions.

“Biosimilars are a necessary step to ensure Pharmacare coverage provides existing coverage for more people and fund new drugs well into the future,” Dix said.

Cheryl Koehn, president of Arthritis Consumer Experts who has been living with rheumatoid arthritis for decades, said she works with people struggling to get reimbursement for medications recommended by their rheumatologists.

“Today’s announcement is a direct answer to this problem, clinically and financially,” Koehn said. “It ensures continued reimbursement coverage for British Columbians who transition to the next-generation biologic and ensures that reimbursement for other patents becomes available.”

Dr. Tom Elliott, medical director of B.C. Diabetes, said extending coverage for Jardiance for Type 2 diabetes is financed by savings from using insulin glargine biosimilar Basaglar in place of the biologic Lantus.

“This change will entail some inconvenience and require some adaptation for the tens of thousands of British Columbians currently using Lantus and their prescribing physicians,” Elliott said. “Patients and prescribers can rest assured that Basaglar has the same effectiveness and time release pattern, unit for unit, as Lantus.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

All Nations Driving Academy gets $360K boost from province

Terrace-based driving school bridges gap in services for remote northwest B.C. communities

Skeena Watershed reopened for recreational pink and coho

Four sections and tributaries remain closed

Skeena-Bulkley Valley candidates react to finding Trudeau broke ethics law

The election campaign is heating up before the writ has even dropped

Burns Lake golfers to help end world hunger

Burns Lake residents will bring together charity and golf at the Grip… Continue reading

Houston area ski club proposes new community forest

Morice Mountain has ‘huge untapped potential’

QUIZ: How much do you remember about Woodstock?

Weekend music festival in Bethel, New York, was held 50 years ago

U16 B.C. fastpitch team named national champs

Girls went undefeated at national tournament in Calgary

Advocates ‘internationalize’ the fight to free Raif Badawi from Saudi prison

Raif Badawi was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his online criticism of Saudi clerics

Canadian entrepreneurs turning beer byproduct into bread, cookies and profits

Some breweries turn to entrepreneurs looking to turn spent grain into treats for people and their pets

Canada ‘disappointed’ terror suspect’s British citizenship revoked

Jack Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the U.K. media, has been detained in a Kurdish prison for about two years

Chrystia Freeland condemns violence in Hong Kong, backs right to peaceful assembly

There have been months of protests in the semi-autonomous region

Most Read