Biosimilars Canada, a national association representing the Canadian biosimilar industry, held a press conference calling on Ontario, the province containing the nation’s capital, to institute a biosimilars switching policy.
Biosimilars Canada, a national association representing the biosimilar industry in Canada, took active steps to expand Canadian biosimilar switching policies by holding a press conference in Ontario.
The conference called on the government of Doug Ford, the premier of Ontario, to implement a biosimilar switching policy, where patients receiving therapy with certain reference products would transfer to therapy with a biosimilar.
Ontario has flirted with the idea of switching policies before. In February 2020, Ontario’s cabinet approved a policy that would switch some patients covered by provincial drug insurance to lower-cost versions. However, the province has yet to implement one.
“For a number of months, Premier Ford and the Ontario government have been working on a proposal to implement a biosimilar switching policy…. Implementing a switching policy in Ontario is a responsible way to save significant taxpayers’ dollars. It would contribute to system sustainability and enable the government to fund other priorities, while continuing to provide high-quality patient care,” said Jim Keon, president of Biosimilars Canada.
Ontario officials, including Premier Ford, have faced staunch criticism on the vote from organizations that have raised concerns about switching stable patients for nonmedical reasons. However, several studies have shown that switching from reference products to biosimilars does not compromise patient clinical outcomes. There is also increasing evidence that showed that switching from one biosimilar to another is safe and effective.
Additionally, in a statement on the press conference, Carter Thorne, MD, senior consultant in rheumatology at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ontario, noted the positive experience that much of Canada has had with switching to biosimilars. “Health Canada is clear that physician-supervised switching is a safe and efficacious practice, and the safety and efficacy of switching patients to biosimilars is also well established internationally and supported by numerous studies…Biosimilars are not new. There is already extensive use of biosimilars in Canada and abroad,” Thorne said.
Currently, 6 provinces and 1 territory have switching policies, including British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the Northwest Territories. In February 2022, Nova Scotia became the latest to adopt a switching policy.
According to Biosimilars Canada, the Ontario government could save $3 million per week, amounting to over $147 million annually, by implementing a biosimilar switching policy. Another study from 2021 estimated that if Ontario implemented a mandatory nonmedical biosimilar substitution policy for inflammatory diseases alone, the province could save $236 million over a 3-year period. If the policy only applied to treatment-naïve patients, Ontario would save just $34 million. Switching policies can also result in savings through reduced hospitalizations for patients with immune diseases, including Crohn disease.
“More than just the savings to taxpayers, a biosimilars switching policy would support a critical industry that employs thousands of Ontario workers. Switching to biosimilars would support the life-sciences ecosystem in Ontario,” explained Michel Robidoux, chair of Biosimilars Canada and president and general manager of Sandoz Canada.
Keon hinted that the upcoming election could partially be preventing the implementation of a switching policy in Ontario. “We know the government of Premier Ford wants to save taxpayers money and deliver efficiencies across government; biosimilar switching would save taxpayers meaningful money…, which could be reinvested back into the health care system.”
He continued, “Let’s get it done, let’s implement a biosimilar switching policy. Biosimilars Canada strongly supports the development and implementation of a biosimilar switching policy in Ontario, and we are optimistic the Ford government will deliver this important efficiency, which will save us money and allow us to prioritize scarce public dollars.”