The New Brunswick Department of Health has launched 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.
The Biosimilars Initiative is a result of the New Brunswick Drug Plans’ evidence-informed strategy to better optimize our public resources, get the best value for new treatments and services, and improve access to medications for patients. Increasing the uptake of other biosimilars will provide savings that will be used to cover new drugs and contribute to the sustainability of the public drug plans.
Originator biologic drugs make up some of New Brunswick Drug Plans’ largest drug expenditures, and their costs are growing at an unsustainable rate. In 2019-20, New Brunswick Drug Plans’ spending on biologic drugs grew by 19% to $63.8 million. In the same year, biologic drugs accounted for 29.4% of drug costs but only represented 1.5% of the total number of claims.
Between April 21, 2021 and November 30, 2021, patients who use certain originator biologics must switch to a biosimilar brand to maintain their coverage under the New Brunswick Drug Plans. During this period, both the originator biologic and its biosimilar versions will be covered to allow prescribers and patients time to discuss treatment options and to switch patients to a biosimilar. Additional originator biologics will be included in the Biosimilars Initiative when their biosimilar brands are listed as benefits
Please refer to the table below for the drugs included and the date by which patients must switch to a biosimilar brand.