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Quebec Biosimilars Initiative


Written by: CDHF

Updated: February 27th, 2023

What is Changing 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. 

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

Those who wish to continue their coverage will be required to switch to avoid any disruption.

If you are currently receiving Remicade® or Humira® to treat your Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis and you depend on Quebec’s Health Insurance Plan (RAMQ) you may require a new prescription to continue coverage and your healthcare professional that wrote your prescription will contact you. They will walk you through the transition, write a new prescription, and answer any of your questions.

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

Watch the video below to learn more:

Exemptions Include:

1. Pregnant women, who should be transitioned to biosimilars in the 12 months after childbirth.

2. Pediatric patients (under the age of 18), who should be transitioned to biosimilars in the 12 months after their 18th birthdays.

3. Patients who have experienced two or more therapeutic failures while being treated with a biologic drug for the same chronic disease.

Use the Infographic to see if you are Exempt: 

CDHF Biosimilar Library

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 

6. How do I maintain my coverage?

To maintain your coverage:

CDHF Resource Links

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