Biosimilar medicines present a significant opportunity to address the demands on drug benefit plans, the president of Biosimilars Canada told Benefits Canada’s Calgary Drug Trends Summit on Nov. 2.

“We’re trying to ensure we can continue to bring biosimilars into the Canadian market to provide you with quality medicines at competitive pricing to help you better manage your drug programs,” Jim Keon, noting the benefits of increased patient access to treatments and enhanced competition in the biopharmaceutical market.

“Canadians can have confidence in biosimilars. A biosimilar is seen as treating the illness in the same way as the original biologic product.”

Since the first European Union approval in 2006, clinical practice worldwide has shown biosimilars to have the same safety profile as the reference product, said Keon.

Read: How do patients feel about biosimilars?

But why should users and payers consider them? “Because of the cost and effectiveness of biosimilars,” said Keon. “Biologics are extremely useful but also very expensive. A drug is not useful at all if it’s not used. We need to find a way to try to moderate some of these costs.”

Canada has yet to fully tap the potential of biosimilars, with limited uptake despite five product approvals, Keon told the audience at the Calgary event.

“Expedited and preferential biosimilar listing policies and uptake drivers are needed. We believe that plans should be put in place to increase the use of biosimilars.”

In April 2016, a large insurance provider became the first benefits provider in Canada to list biosimilars as preferred products under its formularies. It will cover the originator biologic only in exceptional circumstances.

Read: Navigating the drug approval labyrinth to ensure access to new medications

“These are the kinds of proposals we think plan sponsors need to look at implementing,” said Keon.

In response to a question from the audience about what kind of data is available on the safety of biosimilars, Keon referred to studies in other countries. “That’s where we’re going to have the first data. If we wait for actual Canadian use data before we start using the product, we’ll never start using it.

“These products are approved by Health Canada. There is a lot of independent medical expertise going into these products before they are sold and used.”

Read more articles from the Calgary Drug Trends Conference

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