Reimbursement of a second biosimilar infliximab could provide welcome savings in a health system struggling with high drug costs.
The Canadian province of British Columbia will now reimburse for Renflexis, a biosimilar infliximab, under its public drug plan, Merck has announced. The biosimilar is approved in Canada to treat a range of disorders, including inflammatory bowel diseases and inflammatory arthritis.
"We are pleased to see the government of British Columbia add Renflexis to its formulary, which offers effective and more affordable treatment options for patients impacted by these diseases," say Manon Lafontaine, vice president of patient access for Merck Canada, in a statement. "We're committed to continuing to work with provinces and territories throughout Canada to ensure broader access for all patients to the care they need."
The announcement follows the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health recommendation in February 2018 that the biosimilar be reimbursed for patients for whom infliximab is the most appropriate treatment option.
Like the reference infliximab, Remicade, and another biosimilar, Inflectra, Renflexis has been classed as a Limited Coverage Drug in British Columbia, which means that it will not generally be considered for first-line therapy. Special criteria apply for the prescribing of infliximab in any of its approved indications through British Columbia’s PharmaCare drug coverage plan.
Reimbursement of a second biosimilar infliximab could provide welcome savings in a health system struggling with high drug costs; the latest annual report from Canada’s Patented Medicines Prices Review Board (PMPRB), released just last week, indicated that the average annual treatment cost for patients receiving brand-name infliximab grew from CaD $17,759 in 2006 (approximately US $13,708) to CaD $28,804 in 2017 (approximately US $22,234).
High-cost immunosuppressive biologics in general have seen a swift uptake in the Canadian market, driven primarily by brand-name Remicade, adalimumab (Humira), and etanercept (Enbrel), says the report. These products accounted for 4% of all patented medicine sales in 2008, but rose to 17% by 2017.
Renflexis is also approved by the FDA and is available in the United States.