Patient Groups in British Columbia Criticize Mandatory Switch to Biosimilars in IBD

Patient Groups in British Columbia Criticize Mandatory Switch to Biosimilars in IBD
A collaboration of Canadian patient organizations said British Columbia’s (BC) decision to switch those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to biosimilar drugs is short-sighted and a breach of conventional patient-physician boundaries. The Biosimilars Working Group advises the 1,700 Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis patients affected by the change to consult with their physicians before changing from Remicade (infliximab) to Inflectra (infliximab-dyyb) or Renflexis (infliximab-abda). Under the province’s Biosimilars Initiative, patients have about six months to transition to the new drugs. After March 5, the publicly funded coverage program PharmaCare will cease coverage for Remicade, except for patients whose physicians determine they are medically unable to switch. BC is the first Canadian province to undertake such actions. “The sweeping change in coverage is driven by the government’s decision to generate significant healthcare savings from switching patients’ medication rather than negotiating with the makers of the originator biologic to lower their prices,” said the group’s response to the initiative in a press release. PharmaCare launched the initiative’s first phase in May, aiming to replace Remicade, Enbrel, and Lantus for conditions including diabetes, plaque psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis with biosimilar versions by Nov. 25. The second phase, which began Sept. 5, involves Remicade for IBD patients. Biosimilars are therapies developed to function similarly to biologic medicines costing between 25 percent and 50 percent more, and are increasingly used globally. At around 8 percent, Canada has a relatively low biosimilar use rate. “The three biologic drugs affected are among the largest drug expenditures in th
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