Merck enters into biosimilars in Canada

December 4, 2015 8:37 AM

As part of the previously-announced agreement between Merck & Co., Inc. and Samsung Bioepis Co., Ltd., Merck Canada Inc. announced that it is preparing to bring to market a diversified portfolio of biosimilar medicines in Canada over the coming years.

Biosimilars can play an important role in contributing to the sustainability of the healthcare system and generate savings, which could be applied towards increased access to innovative medicines.

Biosimilars, also known as Subsequent Entry Biologics (SEBs) in Canada, are biologic medicines that enter the market after a previously authorized version and, with demonstrated similarity to a reference biologic medicine, are intended to treat various diseases, such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, growth deficiencies, Crohn’s, diabetes, or psoriasis. While originator biologics will continue to be important therapeutic options, biosimilars can provide Canadians with more, lower-priced treatment options.

Biologic drugs are one of Canada’s fastest-growing segments in pharmaceutical spending, showing a 12.2% growth rate for the 12 months ending August 2014 while the total drug expenditures were up 3%. Over that same period of time, biologics sales accounted for $5.6B or 24% of the entire Canadian market for pharmaceuticals, and included four of the top five selling drugs in Canada.

“I prescribe the medicine that is in the best interest of my patients, given their medical conditions and clinical needs,” says Dr. Edward Keystone, a rheumatologist and director of the Rebecca MacDonald Centre for Arthritis and Autoimmune Disease at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. “The question is whether public and private insurers will give priority to biosimilars. Should they choose not to, physicians will most likely continue to prescribe the originator biologics, being that these medicines are historically what they have been accustomed to, which would then limit the use of biosimilars in the long term and prevent the ability to lower drug costs.”

“Merck’s core focus has always been to offer innovative medicines that address unmet medical needs. In today’s complex and challenging environment, innovation can also include the identification of new solutions that can help sustain the healthcare system, while allowing the company to continue funding innovation for the many unmet needs that remain,” said Bruno Mäder, Head of the Merck Biosimilars Business Unit in Canada. “We are actively mobilizing resources across Canada to support our Biosimilars unit, as we work to provide thousands of Canadian patients with access to effective treatment options at significantly lower prices.”


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