In December, the Ontario government announced that it would follow other Canadian provinces including British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and require mandatory switching to biosimilars. a mandatory switching in 2020, but implementation was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A nine-month transition period will begin March 31st. From the government’s announcement:
Ontarians receiving coverage under the ODB program for Copaxone®, Enbrel®, Humalog®, Humira®, Lantus®, NovoRapid®, Remicade®, and Rituxan®, will be required to transition to the biosimilar version by December 29, 2023. During the transition period between March 31 and December 29, 2023, patients are encouraged to discuss a transition plan with their health care provider through in-person, telephone or virtual visits. Exemptions will be considered for patients in certain clinical circumstances on a case-by-case basis in consultation with their health care provider.
While the Ontario announcement justifies the policy by citing 15 years of successful use of biosimilars in Europe, it is important to note that in nearly every European country physicians retain free choice between multiple reimbursed products and forced substitution is rare. A 2017 survey of 403 Canadian physicians revealed that Canadian physicians are generally opposed to forced substitution:
- 64% were not comfortable with a third party switching a patient’s medicine for non-medical reasons, as would occur under the Ontario policy. 28% were somewhat comfortable, and only 6% were completely comfortable.
- 83% considered it “very important” or “critical” that the prescribing physician decide the most suitable biologic for their patients.
- 79% considered it “very important” or “critical” to have the authority to designate on a prescription for a biologic medicine “Dispense as Written” or “Do Not Substitute”.
Read the announcement from the Ontario government here.