Toronto/Victoria – British Columbia Pharmacare has announced a non-medical switch policy involving biosimilar drugs. The policy will switch patients using certain biologic drugs (Remicade®) to biosimilar versions within a six month timeframe. This will affect approximately 1,700 British Columbians (including children), though this number does not include those in British Columbia currently under compassionate use funded by the manufacturer who will also be affected.

“Crohn’s and Colitis Canada understands the fiscal pressure on B.C. Pharmacare, but their non-medical switch policy is missing critical inputs from the patient and healthcare practitioner communities – and considering that they did not consult patient organizations, this is not surprising. The gap between this policy and patients’ needs and concerns in particular is massive,” says Mina Mawani, President and CEO of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. “Our position, based on extensive review and consultation, is that a non-medical switch is not in the best interest of patients – this should be a decision made by a physician and patient together. Minister Dix’s cavalier statement that “there is reluctance in change” vastly understates patient and caregiver feedback. It is unfortunate that B.C. Pharmacare’s policy is not patient-centred and rather focused on questionable savings.” 

Crohn’s and Colitis Canada questions the B.C. Pharmacare decision when other viable options are available that do not affect patients currently well-managed on biologic treatment. “Cost savings do not have to be on the backs of vulnerable patients,” says Ms. Mawani. “Some payers have found a way to both promote the uptake of biosimilars and also access savings from updated pricing of biologic treatment. The precedent has been set: this is patient-centred care – a non-medical switch is not necessary for the purpose of sustainability of healthcare in Canada.”

Crohn’s and Colitis Canada released their position on biosimilar drugs and in particular on non-medical switch policy together with a cross-Canada survey of healthcare providers, patients and caregivers on September 5, and released a legal/ethics review .

Canada has one of the highest rates of IBD in the world. Today, more than 33,000 British Columbians have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis and this number is projected to climb significantly. Crohn’s and Colitis Canada remains optimistic that a non-medical switch policy in British Columbia can be reconsidered to put patients’ needs first. “We are hopeful that our evidence-informed position and the example from other payers will influence policy in British Columbia and remind healthcare decision makers of the importance of patient input,” says Ms. Mawani. “Our focus is on the patient – their health and well-being is our priority.”

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