As Biosimilars Gain Ground in Canada, Janssen Offers Cheaper Brand-Name Biologics

As biosimilars begin to gain ground in the country, Janssen, maker of a number of brand-name biologic products that face current or oncoming biosimilar competition, has launched a program—the Biologics Savings Partnership—that it says will offer patients brand-name biologics at prices similar to those of biosimilar options.
Kelly Davio
April 22, 2019
Like the United States, Canada lags behind the European Union in terms of number of biosimilars approved and uptake of these products. However, Canada has been taking strides forward with developing its biosimilars landscape, and recently, the country’s regulator approved the first rituximab biosimilar (Truxima) to treat both cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, some Canadian health plans are beginning to transition patients from brand-name infliximab (Remicade) and etanercept (Enbrel) to biosimilar options.

As biosimilars begin to gain ground in the country, Janssen, maker of a number of brand-name biologic products that face current or oncoming biosimilar competition, has launched a program—the Biologics Savings Partnership—that it says will offer patients brand-name biologics at prices similar to those of biosimilar options.

According to Janssen’s website for the program, while biologics are among the fastest-growing segments in the Canadian pharmaceutical industry and were responsible for 27% of drug costs for private health plans in 2017, “biosimilars alone may not be the answer to drug plan sustainability.”

Janssen says that that, because patients may have to cycle through multiple biologics during their lifetimes due to treatment failure, and not all biologics have available biosimilars, branded products remain an important option.

Janssen’s website also includes a page that states that “not all brand-name biologics and biosimilars work in the same way.” While the webpage goes on to describe the fact that different classes of biologics have different mechanisms of action, it does not explain that reference products and their biosimilars share the same mechanism of action.

“The Biologics Savings Partnership” enables access to savings across a breadth of brand name biologics in different classes and with different targets,” says Janssen. “This provides broader access to a range of biologic treatment options, including newer biologics, without an additional cost burden.”

At its corporate website, Janssen has also issued a position that states that, while biosimilars may present an opportunity for short-term cost-savings, those savings “should not compromise patient and physician choice. Decisions that are driven by price alone can have negative consequences for patients who are well-managed on current treatments.”

A recent investigation by Canada’s Competition Bureau found that Janssen had supplied its brand-name infliximab at the cost of 1 cent, given free infliximab to “a large number of patients,” and negotiated exclusive contracts that barred biosimilars—or even other innovator biologics—from formularies. The bureau stopped short of saying that the drug maker had hindered biosimilar competition, however, and closed its investigation.

 

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