Lobby group urges switch to cheaper, ‘biosimilar’ prescription drugs in Ontario

Click to play video: 'As N.B. expands biosimilar drug coverage, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada asks for delay'
As N.B. expands biosimilar drug coverage, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada asks for delay
RELATED: Crohn's and Colitis Canada is asking the New Brunswick government to delay – and rethink – a proposed switch to cheaper drug coverage for patients living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The province says the move can be made safely and effectively for about 3,000 patients with arthritis, IBD, and psoriasis. And while Crohn's and Colitis Canada admits the risk is low, it says caution is needed. Callum Smith reports. – Nov 11, 2021

A medical industry lobby group is urging Ontario to switch the drugs offered to patients in the province to a cheaper alternative, promising to save the government roughly $150 million per year.

Biosimilars Canada, a national association representing the biosimilar medical industry, called on the Ford government to switch generic medications for biosimilars, promising significant savings.

The organization said the Ford government is considering the move.

A similar switch has already been made by several provinces and territories across the country, including in Alberta.

Read more: Alberta government changing drug coverage for 26,000 patients, expects to save up to $380M

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Biosimilar drugs are “highly similar” — although not identical — to existing, authorized biologic drugs already authorized for use, according to Health Canada. Biologic drugs are made from living cells rather than chemicals.

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“There are no expected clinically meaningful differences in efficacy and safety between a biosimilar and the biologic drug that was already authorized for sale,” the federal health agency says.

Biosimilars Canada has been campaigning for Ontario to make the switch, touting the lower price of biosimilar drugs.

Read more: B.C. government becomes first Canadian jurisdiction to shift to cheaper biosimilar drugs

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“A biosimilar switching policy will save the Ontario government $3 million per week — that’s over $147 million per year — all while providing Ontario patients with reliable prescription medicine and helping support Ontario’s domestic biologics industry,” said Jim Keon, president of Biosimilars Canada.

The organization said the Ford government has been working on a policy to switch to biosimilar drugs “for a number of months.”

“We know the government of Premier Ford wants to save taxpayers money and deliver efficiencies across government; biosimilar switching would save taxpayers meaningful money over $3 million each week, which could be reinvested back into the health-care system,” Keon said.

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