New Brunswick, Canada, Switches Patients to Biosimilars

Tony Hagen

Tony Hagen is senior managing editor for The Center for Biosimilars®.

Following the lead of British Columbia and Alberta, New Brunswick, a heavily forested province located between Nova Scotia and Quebec, hopes to save on biologics.

New Brunswick, Canada, a province of roughly 780,000 people, has become the third Canadian province to implement a “switching” policy that mandates the use of money-saving biosimilars for patients with inflammatory diseases.

“Increasing the use of biosimilars is expected to save over $10 million once fully implemented and the savings will increase as more biosimilars become available,” said Department of Health Minister Dorothy Shephard. “Biosimilars have been proven to work just as safely and effectively as biologic drugs. Savings from increasing their utilization will be reinvested to support coverage of new therapies and improve patient access to more medications.”

New Brunswick follows British Columbia and Alberta in switching patients to biosimilars. Officials said that in New Brunswick biologic drugs are among the largest drug expenditures and are growing. From 2019 to 2020, spending on biologics there rose 19% to $51 million. “In the same year, biologic drugs accounted for 29.4% of drug costs but only represented 1.5% of the total number of prescriptions paid,” officials said.

They said about 3000 patients currently under treatment for arthritis, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and psoriasis will have until November 30, 2021, to switch from originator biologics to biosimilars, based on consultations with their physicians.

“This biosimilars initiative follows similar policies implemented by British Columbia and Alberta over the past 2 years, where tens of thousands of patients in each province were safely switched from an originator biologic drug to a biosimilar. Switching to biosimilars has also been conducted extensively in Europe, where countries have had over 15 years of experience with biosimilars,” the statement said.

Officials with the Department of Health said they consulted with multiple stakeholders on the switch to biosimilars, which was endorsed by prescribers and patient groups including Arthritis Consumer Experts, Arthritis Research Canada, Arthritis Society, and the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation.

“Biologic medicines have revolutionized the treatment of many disabling and life-threatening diseases but it can cost $10,000 to $25,000 or more to treat a patient with a biologic drug for a year, which is placing an enormous financial strain on drug budgets,” said the Candian biosimilars trade group Biosimilars Canada in applauding the move.

British Columbia recently announced it would switch patients to adalimumab biosimilars.