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The New Brunswick government is expanding the use of biosimilars for certain chronic conditions in its public drug plans.

Approximately 3,000 beneficiaries of the province’s drug plans who are living with diseases such as inflammatory arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes and psoriasis will have until Nov. 30 to switch from a biologic to the biosimilar version, according to a government press release, which noted after that time, the plans will no longer provide coverage for the originator biologic drug. Exceptional coverage may be requested for patients whose physicians determine they’re medically unable to switch to a biosimilar, the release said.

Read: A legislative update on provincial biosimilar policies

In the release, New Brunswick Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said the move, once fully implemented, is expected to save the province $10 million with incremental savings as more biosimilars become available. “Savings from increasing their utilization will be reinvested to support coverage of new therapies and improve patient access to more medications.”

In 2019/2020, New Brunswick’s spending on biologics grew by 19 per cent to $63.8 million, the release said, noting that in the same year, biologic drugs accounted for 29.4 per cent of drug costs but only represented 1.5 per cent of the total number of prescriptions paid.

The initiative follows similar policies implemented by British Columbia and Alberta over the past two years. While Ontario has proposed amendments to provincial drug regulations to enact a biosimilar policy, it has yet to announce an implementation date.

Read: B.C. government says expanding biosimilars will save nearly $100 million over three years