Biologically created drugs are the biggest cost for public health plans like B.C. Pharmacare. (Flickr)

B.C. Pharmacare expanding use of ‘biosimilar’ drugs to save money

Europe far ahead of Canada in adopting alternative treatments

Bioengineered drugs for conditions such as diabetes and arthritis are the most expensive part of B.C.’s Pharmacare and other public drug plans, and new alternatives are being introduced.

The shift began Monday with the introduction of a diabetes drug called Jardiance, and a psoriatic arthritis drug called Talz. Coverage is also enhanced for arthritis treatments including certolizumab, leflunomide, rituximab, tocilizumab and tofacitinab.

A list of affected drug treatments can be found here.

The change is expected to save the province $96 million over the first three years, Health Minister Adrian Dix said. B.C. is following the lead of Europe in moving to alternative drugs, replacing patented treatments made from biological sources such as yeasts.

Medical experts say “biosimilars” are genetically as identical as these types of drugs can be. Affected patients in B.C. will be given a six-month transition period with their doctors to introduce the alternative treatments and identify exceptions.

“Biosimilars are a necessary step to ensure Pharmacare coverage provides existing coverage for more people and fund new drugs well into the future,” Dix said.

Cheryl Koehn, president of Arthritis Consumer Experts who has been living with rheumatoid arthritis for decades, said she works with people struggling to get reimbursement for medications recommended by their rheumatologists.

“Today’s announcement is a direct answer to this problem, clinically and financially,” Koehn said. “It ensures continued reimbursement coverage for British Columbians who transition to the next-generation biologic and ensures that reimbursement for other patents becomes available.”

Dr. Tom Elliott, medical director of B.C. Diabetes, said extending coverage for Jardiance for Type 2 diabetes is financed by savings from using insulin glargine biosimilar Basaglar in place of the biologic Lantus.

“This change will entail some inconvenience and require some adaptation for the tens of thousands of British Columbians currently using Lantus and their prescribing physicians,” Elliott said. “Patients and prescribers can rest assured that Basaglar has the same effectiveness and time release pattern, unit for unit, as Lantus.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

Unlucky Friday the 13th as Penticton Vees fall to Vernon Vipers

The home-and-home series wraps up tonight at the South Okanagan Events Centre

Orchard House is a Rockin’ final time this decade.

The Yard Katz and the Hip Replacements are the starring bands for the Dec. 28 show.

Award-winning musical coming to the South Okanagan

The hit musical Chicago is coming to Penticton for two shows next March

Penticton council approves 2.9 per cent tax increase in 2020 budget

Council will vote in the new budget at an upcoming meeting in the new year

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

Sharks beat Canucks 4-2 to snap 6-game skid

Vancouver visits Vegas on Sunday

Frosty will have to pay rent to stay on Okanagan sidewalk next Christmas

Vernon Teach and Learn allowed to keep Frosty up, but will need a permit come January 1

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

WATCH: Fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

Social media eulogies peg the property, nicknamed “The Pharamacy,” as both loved and hated

Conservation officers on the hunt for North Okanagan moose poachers

Officers execute search warrant Friday morning, investigation continues

UPDATE: Highway 1 reopens after vehicle incident near Boston Bar

Initial reports of a jack-knifed semi truck had closed both directions of the highway

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Most Read