TORONTO – In light of upcoming policy decisions that may force patients on certain medications to switch to lower-cost alternatives, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada is calling on the provincial and territorial governments to protect patients by mandating ‘No Forced Switch.’
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada is celebrating the introduction of safe, effective and lower-cost treatment options like biosimilars for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), of which Crohn’s and colitis are the two main forms. Biologics have been an incredible advancement for Canadians with Crohn’s or colitis, but the national charity is concerned that forced switching key medications could be detrimental to patients and jeopardize their health.
“Doctors and their patients must be able to select the treatment path best suited to each patient’s individual circumstance,” says Mina Mawani, President and CEO of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. “This should come without any undue interference from government or private payers.”
The stakes are high for patients. There are no one-size-fits all treatment solutions.
The ultimate goal for the 250,000 Canadians living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis is finding the cures. In the meantime, effective treatments can lead to stability and allow patients to have active and healthy lives. For many, it can take years of trial and error with various medications to achieve remission.
To ensure the best possible outcomes, doctors and patients in all provinces should have access to approved biosimilars alongside existing treatment options. However, once a patient has found a successful treatment, regardless of the type of medicine, they should not be forced to abandon it due to cost alone. Forcing a patient to switch may interrupt a successful treatment regimen, cause stress and flare-ups, jeopardize long-term remission and lead to surgeries.
“I know from personal experience it can take many years for a person living with Crohn’s or colitis to find remission through a successful treatment,” says Alyx Treasure, Canadian high-jumper and Crohn’s disease advocate. “I would not have been able to compete at the Olympics this summer without the stability provided by my current treatment. A forced switch would put that stability at risk for me and thousands of other Canadians.”
In early 2016, Health Canada approved Inflectra™, a biosimilar of Remicade®, for the treatment of Crohn’s disease, fistulising Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis in adults. This marks the first time in Canada that a biosimilar has been approved for the treatment of these chronic diseases. Inflectra is in the final stages of the Common Drug Review process, which will determine if the provinces and territories list the biosimilar on their drug formularies for patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
“Biosimilars represent a potentially effective and cost-saving treatment option for the management of IBD,” saidDr. Brian Bressler. “While we welcome an additional choice in treatment, biosimilars should not be regarded as interchangeable with their innovator biologic.”
Unlike conventional generic drugs, biosimilars are not identical to their innovator biologic. Minor variations in manufacturing processes between a biosimilar and its innovator biologic can result in unpredictable effects on patients. Forcing patients to switch, puts their entire treatment plan at risk.
“It is in the best interest of both doctors and patients to have access to biosimilars as a compliment to existing treatment options,” adds Dr. Bressler. “However, any decision to substitute a biosimilar for its innovator biologic should only be made between the prescriber and their patient.”
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada is asking Canadians to lend their voice to the ‘No Forced Switch’ campaign. A new online advocacy tool, available at action.crohnsandcolitis.ca, provides additional information on the need to prevent a forced switch and allows all Canadians to easily share their concerns with their government representatives.
About Crohn’s and Colitis Canada
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada is the only national, volunteer-based charity focused on finding the cures for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and improving the lives of children and adults affected by these diseases. It is one of the top two health charity funders of Crohn’s and colitis research in the world, investing over $100 millionin research since 1974, leading to important breakthroughs in genetics, gut microbes, inflammation and cell repair as well as laying the groundwork for new and better treatments. – CNW