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Ontario introduces biosimilars switching policy

Ontario is the latest province to introduce a biosimilars switching policy. Under the terms of the policy, Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) recipients who are on an originator biological will be required to transition to a Health Canada approved biosimilar version of the drug.


Under the new policy, there will be a nine-month transition period, set to start March 31st, 2023 where recipients who are on an originator biologic will begin to transition to a Health Canada approved biosimilar version of the drug at no cost. That will allow patients time to have discussions with their care providers about what the changes mean, as well as their options. In some cases, patients may need to continue using the reference biologic for medical reasons. Exemptions to the initiative will be considered on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with their health care provider.


Patients will have until end of December 29, 2023 to talk to their healthcare provider to receive a new prescription for the biosimilar.


Ontario joins British Columbia, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, the Northwest Territories, and Saskatchewan in introducing biosimilars mandatory switching policies. These policies have been introduced in a bid to drive down healthcare costs across Canada from expensive originator products to lower-cost approved biosimilar versions of the drug. BC was the first province to introduce such a policy in May 2019.


Patient groups continue to voice concerns about mandatory switching for patients who are stable on the reference biologic drug. Patients are advised to speak with their healthcare professional.


While biosimialrs have been used extensively in Europe, where countries have had over 15 years of experience with biosimilars, nearly every European country physician retains free choice between multiple reimbursed products and forced substation is rare.


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