I received a letter this week from our Health Minister (cited below) that has inspired me to write the following poem:
I want you to know
If you write to health guy Tyler Shandro
The reply that you get is not just for you,
But for everyone else who wrote in too
Maybe he got too many emails
He ruffled his hair and started loud wails,
So his staff soothed his brow
And they showed him how
Only thing is as we all know
One size does not fit all – nor letters also
I told him I suffered Crohn's for so many years.
Throwing up, cramps, pains and very dire rears.
At last a treatment that worked – Remicade!
But now it must change for the dollars outlaid
I explained in my letter the trouble I had
Trying other treatments that made me feel bad.
Asking if seniors could be exempt too
For just like children we are vulnerable – true!
Alas, this old gal with immunity shot,
Must now tempt fate, like it or not.
When the summer is here, yes, I must swap!
A biosimilar – a mistake – I truly hope not!
If it ain't broke don't fix it – was always my creed.
But the UCP health boss the dollars he needs.
So if I get sick with this change to my meds –
I will try not to take up hospital beds!
Following is the letter sent by Alberta's Health Minister:
Thank you for your correspondence regarding Alberta’s Biosimilar Initiative.
Health Canada has stated that patients and health care providers can have confidence that biosimilars are effective and safe and no differences are expected in efficacy and safety following a change in routine use between a biosimilar and its originator biologic drug.
Biologics are the largest and fastest growing category of drugs on government-sponsored drug plans. Costs per patient for treatment on originator biologics can exceed $25,000 per patient per year, with biosimilar versions costing up to 50 per cent less than originator biologics. Biosimilars provide a clinically effective treatment option and cost saving alternative to the higher priced originator biologic.
Alberta is expanding its biosimilar program. Albertans who are prescribed a biologic drug and wish to maintain coverage through their government-sponsored drug plan will be switched to its biosimilar version by their prescriber by June 30, 2020.
The Alberta Biosimilar Initiative was developed in consultation with health care providers and their associations, Strategic Clinical Networks, patient groups, drug manufacturers and medical experts. The changes implemented through Alberta’s Biosimilar Initiative will only apply to adult individuals enrolled in Alberta government-sponsored drug plans. Patients under the age of 18 and pregnant women are not required to switch to a biosimilar at this time.
We encourage patients to speak with their prescribers about their medication therapy and switching to a biosimilar, if applicable. If a prescriber determines that there is medical reason that prevents a patient from switching, they may request exception coverage of the originator biologic drug by clearly identifying the reason for the patient’s inability to switch.
If you have further questions about these changes, please speak to your health care provider. You may also contact Alberta Blue Cross at 1-800-661-6995.
Thank you again for writing.
Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health