Saskatchewan Biosimilars Initiative
The Saskatchewan Biosimilars Initiative was announced to improve the uptake of biosimilar drugs.
Biosimilars present a significant opportunity for cost savings and health system sustainability while providing safe and effective medication options. The Biosimilars Initiative supports patient access to public drug coverage and new drug benefits.
The Biosimilars Initiative means that patients are covered for a biosimilar version of their biologic medication where one is available.
Several public drug plans across Canada, including Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, the Northwest Territories, Ontario, Quebec and Yukon have put in place similar policies to increase uptake of biosimilar drugs. Several countries have also put in place policies to encourage the use and transition to biosimilars.
1. Transitioning to a Biosimilar
Under the Saskatchewan Biosimilars Initiative patients already using a reference biologic (or “originator” biologic) with an available biosimilar version need to start using a biosimilar version of their medication to keep their coverage under the Saskatchewan Drug Plan.
- The announced transition period allows time for patients to talk to their health care provider and get a new prescription for the biosimilar.
- Patients who are already receiving coverage through the Drug Plan for a reference biologic and need to start using a biosimilar will receive a letter from the Saskatchewan Drug Plan.
- After the announced transition period, the Saskatchewan Drug Plan will no longer cover the reference biologic drug.
Letters have been mailed to affected patients using the following reference biologic drugs:
|Humalog (insulin lispro)
|Week of October 2, 2023
This information will be updated as letters are mailed to affected patients using other reference biologic drugs included in the Saskatchewan Biosimilars Initiative.
You may be affected by this policy if:
- You are starting or are already using a reference biologic drug on the list of drugs affected.
- You receive Saskatchewan Drug Plan coverage for this medication.
To start using a biosimilar medication, you should:
- Check the list of drugs affected to see if you need to use a biosimilar to be eligible for Saskatchewan Drug Plan coverage of this medication.
- Follow up with the health care provider who prescribes your reference biologic at your next scheduled appointment. Contact their office if you do not have an appointment booked before the end of the announced transition period.
- Get a new prescription for a biosimilar version of your medication (a new prescription is required to start the biosimilar at your pharmacy or clinic)
- If you are using a reference biologic insulin, you can also ask your pharmacist to help you transition to a biosimilar insulin.
- Discuss your questions about biosimilars with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist
In some cases, you may have the option to enrol in a biosimilar patient support program. Your health care provider can help you with this.
If you receive Saskatchewan Drug Plan coverage of a reference biologic insulin affected by the Saskatchewan Biosimilars Initiative, you will need to start using a biosimilar insulin to keep your coverage of this medication. You can start using a biosimilar insulin by getting a new prescription for a biosimilar from your physician or nurse practitioner, or by asking your pharmacist to help you transition to a biosimilar. More details for patients and health care providers.
If you also receive medication coverage from a third-party insurance provider (such as a benefits plan through your employer):
- Your insurance provider may coordinate your benefits with the Saskatchewan Drug Plan.
- Contact your private insurance provider with questions about your private drug coverage benefits.
Exemptions: Some patients may need to continue using the reference biologic for medical reasons. Exemptions to the Saskatchewan Biosimilars Initiative policy may be considered for an individual patient to continue their Saskatchewan Drug Plan coverage of a reference biologic. Prescribers can submit a request and clinical information for an individual patient. The Exemption Request Form can be found in the Prescriber Forms section.
2. List of Drugs Affected
The List of drugs affected outlines the biologic drugs currently included in the Biosimilars Initiative. The Biosimilars Initiative will also apply to future reference biologics as new biosimilars are launched and listed on the Saskatchewan Formulary. Prescribers and patients will be notified of these changes in the future.
|Reference biologic brand name (switch from)
|Biosimilar brand name (switch to)
|End of transition period
|March 31, 2024
Please note that patients will continue to be able to access Saskatchewan Drug Plan coverage of their reference biologic medication if a suitable biosimilar format is not available.
- Coverage of Humalog® 200 units/mL will continue to be available for patients who need a higher concentration formula, as there is no equivalent biosimilar format at this time.
- NovoRapid® vials and Lantus® vials will remain covered at this time, until biosimilar(s) in a vial format are listed on the Saskatchewan Formulary. Existing vial users have ongoing coverage in place. Prescribers can request an exemption to the policy for new patients requiring a vial format.
- Coverage of NovoRapid® will continue to be available for patients who use insulin pumps while the biosimilar(s) undergo insulin pump certification.
- Admelog® is compatible with various insulin pump models from Insulet (Omnipod), Medtronic, Tandem, and Ypsomed.
- Individuals with questions about insulin compatibility with specific insulin pump models are encouraged to contact the insulin pump manufacturer.
Concluded Transition Periods
3. Biologic and Biosimilar Drugs
Biologic drugs are made from living organisms or their cells. They differ from most other drugs in that they are not made by chemicals. Biologic drugs include hormones, blood products, antibodies, genes and vaccines. Biologics treat many different diseases, including Crohn’s and colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.
A reference biologic or “originator” drug is the first version of a biologic drug to be made.
Biosimilar drugs are the next versions of the biologic drug to be made after the reference biologic’s patent expires. Patients and health care professionals can be confident that biosimilars are as effective and safe as reference biologics.
- Biosimilars work in the same way as the reference biologic, but are less expensive.
- Patients can expect the same results from biosimilars as the reference biologic they are familiar with.
Biosimilars are regulated and monitored by Health Canada. Clinical studies show that biosimilars have the same efficacy and safety as the reference biologic drug.
5. Patient Support Programs
Note: Patient Support Program information has been provided to the Saskatchewan Drug Plan by the manufacturers and may not be available for all biologic products. Please contact the Patient Support Program or drug manufacturer directly for more information, or if you have questions about these services.
6. Prescriber Forms
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7. Resources and Studies
Letter to Health Care Providers - October 20, 2022
Letter to Health Care Providers - November 18, 2022
Letter to Health Care Providers - January 23, 2023
Letter to Health Care Providers - February 27, 2023
Letter to Health Care Providers - April 6, 2023
Letter to Health Care Providers - May 1, 2023
Letter to Health Care Providers - September 25, 2023
Letter to Health Care Providers - March 1, 2024
8. Contact Us
Patients should contact their doctor, nurse, or pharmacist with questions about their treatment or about biosimilar medications.
medSask is a drug information service available to support patients and health care providers with questions about their biologic drug treatment.
For general questions about the Saskatchewan Biosimilars Initiative, please contact the Saskatchewan Drug Plan by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-667-7581 (306-787-3317 in Regina)