Understanding Biosimilars and Non-Medical Switch: The Details

At Charlton Health we specialize in providing biologic medications for many autoimmune conditions. 

Some of these medications have been on the Canadian market for several years and their patent to be the only company who can make the medicine has ended.

This allows other manufacturers to make their own version of the biologic medication. A new supplier of a biologic that has lost its patent, is called a biosimilar

The reason for the name “biosimilar” is because a biologic is produced by programming a living cell to make specific protein-based medication. The specific type of cell used will be different depending on the manufacturer, so their medication must be called “similar” rather than identical. Even batch to batch, the original producer of a biologic can have slight differences. This is why Health Canada requests studies be done with all biosimilars to ensure they are as effective and safe as the original biologic. Studies have also shown that safety and efficacy remain the same when a patient makes this switch.   

Due to the cost savings, many patients around the world have switched from an originator biologic to a biosimilar with great success. In Canada, most provinces have also switched patients to a biosimilar for the purpose of cost savings that would not impact patient outcomes. 

This is referred to as a non-medical switch

Ontario recently announced that the process of switching existing patients to a biosimilar will begin March 31st and this transition period will go until the end of 2023. 

Some of the treatments for autoimmune diseases that are affected by this switch include infliximab (Remicade©), rituximab (Rituxan©), adalimumab (Humira©) and etanercept (Enbrel©).  

At Charlton Health we have dispensed ALL the biosimilars available for each of these treatments over the last several years. They are all very familiar to us and your specialist.

We will work with your specialist to provide any biosimilar needed. 

Our pharmacists will help you be educated on any change!

Charlton works with all support programs; you will have the same financial support you have received from the originator biologic program. 

If you receive an infused medication in one of our clinics, you will continue at the same site with your care team.  If you receive an injectable medication, you will be trained on any device change as each manufacturer has their own patented device. Some of the biosimilar injections offer different features to enhance injection comfort. 

Our pharmacists can review these options with you.  

Based on the worldwide experience and evidence with the biosimilars that exist today, many medical professionals and patient support groups endorse this switch with the understanding that patients are well-informed and educated on any switch.

As always, never hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns regarding your specialty treatment.  Our team of health professionals and reimbursement specialists are here to support you!

Carolyn Whiskin is the Pharmacy Manager for Charlton Health. Carolyn specializes in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, pharmaceutical compounding, women’s health, pain, and smoking cessation. Carolyn has won provincial and national awards for her commitment to patient care and public service.

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