Green Shield Canada is rolling out a new biosimilar transition program as a pilot project through the first half of 2018, with an aim to extending it to all of its employer clients by the end of the year.

The program, which was designed to help plan members transition from an originator drug to a corresponding biosimilar, will initially focus on two medications — Remicade and Enbrel — for the conditions of rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis.

Read: What to do about biosimilars?

Participating plan members who currently take those medications will be sent a letter explaining the evidence for transitioning to biosimilars, the details of the program and the steps to come. They’ll be able to either choose a one-time transition to the biosimilar after discussing it with their doctor or continue on their current treatment and pay the difference, according to a news release from Green Shield Canada.

More drugs and conditions will be added as the number of biosimilars on the market grows and more indications for existing biosimilars are approved, noted the release. As well, the program won’t be automatically added to all of Green Shield Canada’s prescription drug plans, but its employer clients will have the opportunity to opt into it later this year.

Read: Canadian physicians more familiar with biosimilars but still lack understanding: survey

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Chris Pryce, CEBS:

I understand the concept that not every Canadian has been bestowed with the right to have access to whatever drug is on the market, and I also understand the financial implications of saving thousands of dollars on biosimilars. But taking patients off a biologic that they have perhaps had to work through other drugs to finally get to an be stable on, is concerning to me. Yes, the patient has the choice to pay the difference, but we are not talking about a $10 script. Switching in many cases, involves the patient having to withdraw themselves off drug for a period of time (2 weeks in certain cases) before they can start the loading doses for the new treatment. Is Green Shield there to manage their condition in that time when their symptoms worsen and they are unproductive at work and may even miss work. Additionally, which RA specialist would recommend taking a stable patient off drug…I am no doctor, but have seen first hand the challenges with biologics (dosage creep and multiple drug failures) and this action by GS might make financial sense but perhaps it would be unnecessary if GS simply signed a product listing agreement to ensure a fair price for Remicaide relative to the biosimilar. Are we on our way to U.S. style HMO’s?

Friday, March 09 at 2:02 pm | Reply

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