Canadian HR Reporter

July 2019 CAN

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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CANADIAN HR REPORTER JULY 2019 NEWS 3 B.C. makes move towards biosimilars Legislation should mean improved coverage, benefits for workers, employers: Experts BY MARCEL VANDER WIER BRITISH COLUMBIA has be- come the first province to legislate a changeover to biosimilar drugs — a move that could save employ- ers thousands of dollars on health benefits, according to experts. "Once the companies bringing biosimilars see that the Canadian market is supporting them, they will bring more. and that will be an opportunity for even more savings. So, from an employer perspective, this is 100 per cent positive," said Jim Keon, president of Biosimilars Canada in Toronto. B.C.'s move was made in May and is intended to create oppor- tunities for new drug listings and expanded coverage for patients. e changeover will occur over a period of six months and affect more than 20,000 patients with chronic conditions, according to the government. Conditions affected include rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Patients are required to switch from their current biologic medicines to lower-cost biosimi- lars as of Nov. 25. Following that date, the provincial PharmaCare plan will only provide coverage of biologics in exceptional cases. Biosimilars are representative of biologic medicines, but not identical. Biologics are injectable drugs constructed from living or- ganisms such as bacteria or yeast, and are used to treat a variety of diseases. Typically, biosimilars cost 25 to 50 per cent less than the origi- nal biologics. At present, there are 10 biosimilars approved for sale in Canada, according to the government. "B.C. is leading the country by promoting the widespread use of biosimilars, which have been proven to work just as safely and effectively as higher-priced biolog- ics," said provincial Health Minis- ter Adrian Dix. "Biosimilars are a necessary step to ensure PharmaCare provides existing coverage for more people and funds new drugs well into the future." Biologics are collectively the most expensive cost on public drug plans, according to the B.C. government. Last year, the prov- ince spent $125 million on Lantus, Enbrel and Remicade — drugs treating chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and Crohn's disease. By increasing the use of biosim- ilars, B.C. is expected to save more than $96 million over three years — funds that will be redirected to support additional drug listings and improved patient coverage, said the government. 'Responsible choice' Biosimilar medicines are an im- portant measure in terms of man- aging costs, according to Keon. "Switching or transitioning patients from original biologic treatments to their correspond- ing biosimilar medicines is the responsible choice for those who manage drug budgets." Less than two per cent of Ca- nadian prescriptions were filled with biologic drugs last year, but the total cost represented 30 per cent of the country's total pre- scription drug costs, according to the association. "is is a policy whose time has come," said Keon. "Canada and the U.S. are well behind Eu- rope in the introduction and use of biosimilars." "It's a good policy. It makes good sense fiscally," he said. "We've seen, in Europe, much greater use of biosimilars. In Canada, the use of biosimilars has been very low, and especially on products that are used to treat chronic illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's and colitis. It is very hard to have biosimilar use increase unless you take some wise, aggressive moves like B.C." While B.C. is the first jurisdic- tion in North America to legislate such a move, more jurisdictions — as well as insurance companies and private payers — are expected to follow suit, said Keon. "It's based on good science," he said. "ey did their homework in terms of talking to the groups that are affected." "We're at the edge of a new dawn — a new era. Expanding patient choice with good quality medicines is really the key." Biosimilars are a critical ingre- dient to the overall sustainability of drug plans, according to Ned Pojskic, leader of pharmacy and health provider relations at Green Shield Canada in Toronto. "As a country, we have not done a great job of ensuring that bio- similars get the necessary uptake needed to make that market sus- tainable and viable, and to ensure that plan sponsors, Canadian em- ployers, get the savings they need from biosimilars," he said. "ey are key to future sustain- ability. And I think they're key to our ability to absorb some of these truly new, ground-breaking drugs." "That's really what the story here is all about. If (you create a) sustainable market, you then IMPACT > pg. 14

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