The new policy should benefit drugmakers with covered biosimilars, such as Merck & Co, Novartis’ Sandoz unit, Pfizer and Eli Lilly.
Merck Canada lauded the step in a statement on Monday.
“The initiative could help save millions of dollars over the first three years, and could improve access to prescription drugs for patients in the province,” the company said.
Pfizer said it supported a well-controlled switch from a reference biologic drug to a biosimilar in an approved indication.
“BC has taken an informed, inclusive and responsible approach to enhancing access to biosimilars,” Pfizer said.
Most Canadian provinces have started limiting coverage of branded biotech drugs for new patients, without forcing patients to switch. Even that has prompted backlash. Early this year, J&J won a lawsuit against Quebec, forcing its public drug plan to resume coverage of Remicade for new patients.
Because the ruling was based on the procedure Quebec took dropping the drug, most expect it to have little impact outside Quebec. It is not clear how it will affect future policy in the province, which has a public plan for all residents who lack private insurance.
A spokeswoman for Quebec’s Health Department said work was under way to “identify the best practices and measures that could be used to help biosimilars make up a greater part of the market,” but that it would be premature to say more.