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Quebec Biosimilars Initiative


Written by: CDHF

Updated: February 20th, 2024

What has changed in the Quebec Drug Plan Coverage for Biologics?

On May 18, 2021 the Minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, announced that the Quebec government is initiating a biosimilars Initiative which involves switching patients from originator biologic drugs to their biosimilar versions. It follows the successful implementations of similar initiatives by British Columbia and Alberta. In addition, switching to biosimilars has been conducted extensively in Europe, where countries have had over 15 years of experience with biosimilars. 

Since April 12, 2022, Quebec’s Health Insurance Plan (RAMQ) has only covered the use of the following biosimilars, used to treat Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis:

Read the statement released May 18, 2021 by the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services about the Biosimilars Initiative.

The Rise of Biosimilars in Canadian Healthcare:

The rise of biologics and biosimilars in Canada has led to soaring drug plan costs, with no signs of slowing down. Biosimilars are antibodies created in the laboratory from living cells that stop certain proteins in the body from causing inflammation, helping with uncomfortable symptoms of IBD. However, biosimilars offer up to 50% cost savings while delivering equivalent health benefits. British Columbia led the way in biosimilar adoption, saving millions. This change is happening because biosimilars nationwide could save billions of dollars, easing pressure on the healthcare system. Learn more by watching the video below.

New Patients:

If you’re newly diagnosed with IBD, your physician may have recommended to start biologic therapy. So what does this mean? Biologics are antibodies created in a laboratory from living cells that stop certain proteins in the body from causing inflammation. Biosimilars are created using the same process as an original biologic, with no clinically meaningful differences in safety and efficacy.  CDHF knows starting any medication can be very stressful. Watch the video below to learn more.

Transitioned Patients:

425,000 Canadians are living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). If you’re among them, your doctor might have suggested transitioning from a biologic to a biosimilar. Health Canada confirms biosimilars’ effectiveness and safety, assuring no expected differences in efficacy or safety compared to the reference biologic drug.

Making the switch supports better patient care, with savings directed towards expanding subsidized medications, enhancing patient access, and advancing new medical treatments. At CDHF, we understand the stress of changing medications. Explore our biosimilar library for informative resources to seamlessly transition to your new treatment. Watch the video below to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a biologic?

Biologic (reference) drugs are medications made by using living organisms (such as yeast or animal cells) to produce complex proteins that are purified then administered to affect certain processes in the human body.

2. What is a biosimilar?

A biosimilar is a drug demonstrated to be highly similar to a biologic (reference) drug, that has been authorized for sale in Canada.

3. What do experts say about the safety and efficacy of biosimilars?

Health Canada is responsible for ensuring the safety, efficacy, and quality of all new drugs including biologics and biosimilars. For a biosimilar drug to be approved in Canada, Health Canada must find no meaningful differences in safety and effectiveness compared to the biologic.

“The government’s initiative to increase the use of biosimilars makes sense, as the resulting savings have been guaranteed to stay in the public drug plans to fund new drugs. Biosimilars are just as safe and effective as the originator versions, as demonstrated by the experiences in British Columbia, Alberta and Europe.” – Dr. Mark MacMillan, Gastroenterologist and Assistant Professor in Division of Digestive Care & Endoscopy at Dalhousie University Department of Medicine

See more here.

4. Do I have to switch to a biosimilar?

As part of the biosimilars initiative, if you receive coverarage in Quebec and you currently take Remicade® or Humira®for the treatment of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, you must switch to the biosimilar version before the end of the transition period (April 12, 2022) to avoid any disruption to your coverage. There may be medical reasons why you cannot switch to a biosimilar. Your healthcare provider can help you determine if it is medically necessary to remain on a biologic (reference) drug and will confirm if you qualify for an exemption.

5. Why is the change happening?

The Minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, announces that the Quebec government is initiating a shift in favor of the use of biosimilar drugs, which will generate annual savings of more than $ 100 million, only for the public health plan. drug insurance and its insureds. These savings will be reinvested in the health system, in particular to improve access to innovative drug therapies.

Despite the inclusion of several biosimilar drugs on the drug lists for many years following recommendations issued by the National Institute of Excellence in Health and Social Services (INESSS), they remain underused. This situation generates a considerable additional cost for the General Prescription Drug Insurance Plan since biosimilar drugs are significantly less expensive than reference drugs, with no difference in therapy for patients.

“Innovation is giving rise to incredible medical advances and to the development of healthcare practices and offers that are always better suited to people’s needs. The decisive shift we are taking towards the judicious use of biosimilar drugs is a good example of this. I am convinced that this will help ensure the sustainability and viability of our health system. We have the health of the population at heart and the actions taken in this matter are in the interest and for the benefit of patients.” – Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services 

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