BC to cover biosimilar drugs through Pharmacare
By Roshni Riar, Staff Writer
BC will be the first province in Canada to expand Pharmacare coverage to biosimilar medication—changing the type of drugs that the healthcare system funds.
Biosimilar drugs are alternatives to the bioengineered drugs, which are called biologic drugs, that are currently available to treat specific conditions. Twenty years after the patent for an original biologic drug is filed, the patent expires and manufacturers are allowed to create biosimilar alternatives based off the original patent.
The introduction of biosimilar medication will reduce costs of prescription medications by 25 percent to 50 percent. The lowered cost comes from a decreased need to conduct research or development, since biosimilar drugs are modelled after their original biologic versions.
A six-month transition period will allow those taking medication for diabetes and specific arthritic conditions to switch to biosimilar medication before coverage for their current medication is eliminated. In conjunction with the introduction of biosimilar drugs, coverage for arthritis drugs will be broadened and coverage periods and pre-requirements will be modified under Pharmacare.
As of November 25, Pharmacare will discontinue coverage for the original versions of drugs used to treat conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis, diabetes, plaque psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Jardiance, a diabetes drug, and Taltz, a psoriatic arthritis drug, are available for patients to switch to immediately. Information on biosimilar drugs for Crohn’s and colitis patients will be available this summer.
The BC government estimates that the transition to biosimilar drugs for arthritis, diabetes, and Crohn’s patients will save $96.6 million over the next three years.
This announcement comes after the January announcement that revealed the BC government will invest $105 million over the next three years to reduce or eliminate deductibles and co-payments for low income residents. These are the first changes to be made to Pharmacare since 2004.
Karen Sharma, a first-year Business student, shared her thoughts on the introduction of biosimilar drugs in an interview with the Other Press.
“Hopefully this will be effective in saving everyone [involved in] the pharmaceutical industry a lot of money—from the developers to the patients,” Sharma said.
Sharma hopes the immediate success of biosimilar drugs will be beneficial in having other prescription drugs redeveloped.
“If [the implementation of biosimilar drugs] proves to be beneficial, that should encourage the industry to look at expanding development to as many prescriptions drugs as possible,” Sharma said, “Too many people are skipping medication because they can’t afford it and hopefully that will stop as biosimilar drugs [become more readily] available.”