The Arthritis Newsletter

Spring 2018

Biosimilars: What are they, and why patients should not be afraid of them!

By Kelly English


Why does a name say so much? If we called them off-patent or lower-cost drugs would the discussion still be the same? What if we said the Health Care budget would decrease without harm to a patient, would that matter?


So what is a biosimilar, and why do we need to know?


A biosimilar is a biologic drug demonstrated to be similar to a brand name drug already authorized for sale (known as the reference biologic drug). Biosimilars were previously known in Canada as subsequent entry biologics (SEBs). Biosimilars may enter the market after the expiry of reference biologic drug patents and data protections.


Why are biosimilars still so controversial, even if they have the same efficacy and comparable safety to their biologic originator?


Some argue that biosimilars might not be exactly the same as the biologic originator. However, even between doses of biologics (the originator and biosimilars) there are slight differences. Ultimately, we know that a biosimiliar has similar effectiveness, safety and benefits to patients, and they have been used in Europe since 2006 without problems (and with cost savings).


There are seven biosimilars approved in Canada right now. Biosimilars have the potential to improve patient reimbursement and access to biologics (both originators and biosimilars) and save public and private healthcare systems billions of dollars.


It is important in these times of runaway health costs and high drug costs that consumers are aware of the facts. Read up about biosimilars and follow the news, and don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor and rheumatologist. Be an informed consumer!


Please check out these helpful resources. One, a letter published in the Vancouver Sun, and second, an Arthritis Consumer Expert’s Biosimilars in Canada Webinar featuring Cheryl Koehn of Arthritis Consumer Experts and Dr. John Esdaile, Scientific Director at Arthritis Research Canada:


Vancouver Sun Article:  http://vancouversun.com/opinion/letters/letters-patients-need-not-be-afraid-of-biosimilars


Video from Arthritis Consumer Experts:

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