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PharmaCare Expands Use of Biosimilars

​British Columbia's PharmaCare program is launching a Biosimilars Initiative to increase the use of biosimilars. The changes apply to all PharmaCare plans, including Plan W, which covers clients of the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA). Plan W ​coverage of the insulin glarine biosimilar differs from the other plans.

The biosimilars initiative will generate cost savings that will create opportunities for new drug listings and boost existing coverage for patients. An immediate effect of this is the listing of Jardiance®, a diabetes drug, as well as the psoriatic arthritis drug Taltz®.

Biologics include a wide range of pharmaceutical products produced by living cells, such as vaccines, insulins, and other injectable medications. Infliximab (Remicade®) and etanercept (Enbrel®) are examples of biologic products. A biosimilar is very similar, but not identical, to the original biologic medication (also known as originator drug). Biosimilars are as safe and effective and have the same clinical outcomes as the originator medication.

Plan W Coverage of Biosimilars:

• PharmaCare is changing coverage for three originator drugs: infliximab, etanercept and insulin glargine. Changes apply only for certain indications.

• During the transition phase between May 27, 2019 and Nov. 25, 2019, PharmaCare will cover both the originator drug and the biosimilar(s). After Nov. 25, 2019, coverage for the originator drugs will only be available on an exceptional basis. FNHA clients currently taking Lantus will not need to switch medications.

•​ Insulin Glargine (Basaglar) is a regular benefit in Plan W, no Special Authority required.

Clients are encourag​ed to discuss their biosimilar medication treatment with their health care teams.

Clients with any questions or who would like more information are encouraged to contact First Nations Health Benefits at 1-855-550-5454.

Background Information

Biosimilars:

•​ are well-understood and extensively studied;

• have no additional risk of side effects;

• do not require significant changes in dosing or administration; and

• are available at significantly lower cost than originator biologics.

PharmaCare announced the expansion of biosimilar coverage on May 27, 2019: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2019HLTH0080-001072

PharmaCare newsletter on the Biosimilars Initiative: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/health-drug-coverage/pharmacare/newsletters/news19-003.pdf

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