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

‘Best in the country’: Formerly homeless man praises Victoria’s outreach services

Jay W. was living on the streets of downtown Victoria in 2018

City of Victoria plans workshop to determine fate of Sir John A. Macdonald statue

Conversations will happen as part of a reconciliation dialogue series in May 2020

Time-lapse video shows weekend work on McKenzie Interchange project

Construction crews place concrete underpass bridge beams

Years of ‘horrific, violent accidents’ at Thetis Lake prompt plea to public

View Royal fire chief asks for an end to alcohol consumption at busy park

Watchdog group says Saanich council needs a ‘reality check’ about taxes

Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria warns of eroding housing affordability in Saanich

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Latest plan is to fly trapped fish by helicopter over Big Bar slide

Multi-pronged plan set in motion to freesalmon blocked by landslide in the Fraser River

Family of missing B.C. senior with dementia frustrated with situation, heartened by community support

Nine days since Grace was last seen the question remains: ‘How can an 86-year-old just disappear?’

Police ask for help locating missing men last seen in South Surrey

Jeep that Richard Scurr and Ryan Provencher were in has been located unoccupied in Logan Lake: RCMP

Okanagan Air Cadet challenges gender-exclusive haircut policy

Haircut regulation inspires challenge around gender identity

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Sexual assaults, extortion on the rise even as crime rates stay low: Stats Canada

Rates of police-reported sexual assault rose for the fourth year in a row

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

Most Read