Since their introduction to Canada 21 years ago, biologic medicines have improved the treatment of many disabling and life-threatening chronic diseases, including inflammatory arthritis, certain types of cancer, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis.1 Treatment with biologic medicines, however, is expensive and has contributed to the rising costs of healthcare. Biologics are expensive because they are made from living organisms unlike small molecule medicines, which are less costly to produce.
Importantly, not only do biologics have higher prices, but they also are prescribed for longer durations to younger patients in order to manage chronic diseases. These higher and growing costs continue to put pressure on public drug plans.2
In 2021, one of these biologic drug classes, anti-TNF medicines, used to treat diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, accounted for the highest proportion of public drug plan spending for the tenth consecutive year.3
Biosimilar medicines present an opportunity to address these challenges. As patents for original-brand biologics expire, other companies are allowed to make biosimilar versions of the original-brand medicine that has already been authorized for sale by Health Canada. Health Canada defines a biosimilar as a biologic medicine that is highly similar to a biologic medicine that was already authorized for sale. There are no expected meaningful differences in efficacy and safety in the biosimilar compared to an original-brand biologic.4
Because biosimilars are produced post-patent, biosimilar manufacturers do not have the same costs to bring the product to market and can therefore offer it at a lower price.5 The potential savings generated by biosimilars may be reinvested into healthcare resources for Canadian patients.
The Biosimilars Generation – patients, healthcare providers and Canadians – are all in it together.
Explore our website and learn more about The Biosimilars Generation and what the use of biosimilar medicines means for Canadians.
1 Canadian Institute for Health Information. Prescribed Drug Spending in Canada, 2020. Ottawa, ON: CIHI; 2020. Page 8
2 Health Canada: Enbrel Product Monograph
3 Canadian Institute for Health Information. Prescribed Drug Spending in Canada, 2021. Ottawa, ON: CIHI; 2022. Infographic
4 Health Canada Biosimilars Fact Sheet
5 Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH): Biosimilar Drugs: Your Questions Answered