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

Two from Delta killed in two-vehicle crash near Golden

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash

Semiahmoo Rock alum to represent Canada at World Junior Lacrosse Championship

Jacob Dunbar plays for Port Coquitlam Saints of BCJALL

Surrey celebrates multiculturalism with annual Fusion Festival

The two-day festival returns to Holland Park

RCMP investigate two shootings in Surrey

Incidents happened in Whalley, Newton

Surrey Board of Trade fears SkyTrain expansion will impede other transit needs

‘We need transit improvements in all of Surrey,’ Anita Huberman says

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Alberta judge denies B.C.’s bid to block ‘Turn Off the Taps’ bill

He said the proper venue for the disagreement is Federal Court

Canadian high school science courses behind on climate change, says UBC study

Researchers found performance on key areas varies by province and territory

UPDATE: One dead after house fire in rural Maple Ridge

Dewdney Trunk Road closed, traffic being re-routed

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

Highway 1 closed near Revelstoke

No estimated time for opening

Most Read