Hundreds of people rallied at the steps of the Alberta legislature on Sunday, December 1st to show their concern for non-medical switching. The rally coupled with over 11,000 letters already sent to Alberta government, demonstrate that constituents are strongly opposed to a forced switch. Speakers at the rally included:
- David Shepherd, MLA Edmonton-City Centre
- Families affected by inflammatory bowel disease
- Nick and Crystal Arrand
- Sarah Allouche
- Bryanne Johnsen
Policy changes by governments across Canada could force patients well-managed on a biologic to switch to a biosimilar for non-medical reasons. British Columbia Pharmacare announced their non-medical switch policy in September 2019. The Alberta government is also considering implementing a non-medical switch policy that could affect thousands of Albertans living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. While governments claim budget savings, the biologic manufacturer has openly offered to match biosimilar pricing.
With questionable savings, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada is challenging government to reconsider their position. “Policy changes do not have to be on the backs of vulnerable patients,” says Ms. Mawani. “Some payers have found a way to both promote the uptake of biosimilars and also access savings from updated pricing of biologic treatment. The precedent has been set: this is patient-centred care – a non-medical switch is not necessary for the purpose of sustainability of healthcare in Canada.”
Doctors, through the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology (CAG), do not support a non-medical switch.
Dr. Remo Panaccione, Director, Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic and Professor of Medicine at the University of Calgary, underscores the importance of consultation with physician leaders in the field together with patients and caregivers. “These are decisions that have far reaching consequences for patients, physicians, and society as a whole. They should be made with proper discussions with all stakeholders to find a solution that benefits everyone but not at the expense of patient health and wellness” says Dr. Panaccione.
The Chair of the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Scientific and Medical Advisory Council, Dr. Gilaad Kaplan, a Professor at the University of Calgary, considers a non-medical switch policy affecting patients with IBD to be flawed. “Moving ahead with such policy is to disregard the evidence and to ignore health consequences for vulnerable patients. Albertans deserve more from their government” says Dr. Kaplan.
Canada has one of the highest rates of IBD in the world. Today, more than 32,000 Albertans have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis and this number is projected to climb significantly. Crohn’s and Colitis Canada remains optimistic that a non-medical switch policy in Alberta can be reconsidered to put patients’ needs first. “We are hopeful that our evidence-informed position and the example from other payers will influence policy in Alberta and remind healthcare decision makers of the importance of patient input,” says Ms. Mawani. “Our focus is on the patient – their health and well-being is our priority.”