B.C. expands biosimilar drug program to include treatments for Crohn’s, colitis

Bioengineered medicine is the single biggest expense for public drug plans. Biosimilar drugs are cheaper alternatives to name-brand drugs. (Shutterstock / Atstock Productio)

The British Columbia government says it is expanding its substitute drug program to include 1,700 patients with diseases such as Crohn’s and colitis.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says biosimilars, which are cheaper alternatives to name-brand drugs, have worked well in other countries and the province will be saving about $96.6 million to be put back into health care over three years.

Biosimilars are highly similar versions of bioengineered drugs known as biologics. There are 17 such products approved for sale in Canada.

Bioengineered medicine is the single biggest expense for public drug plans. In 2018, B.C. spent $125 million to treat chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

In January, the province made a three-year, $105-million investment to help low-income British Columbians get access to the drugs.

The initial program announced in May saw more than 20,000 British Columbians move their prescription from the biologic to biosimilar drugs.

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