Skip to content

LETTER: Nothing has changed regarding bio-similar switch and COVID-19

"The government initially set a completion date of July 15, 2020, upon which all parties involved, through the co-operation of their physicians, must have switched over to the bio-similar. But then in the late winter/early spring of 2020, along came the COVID-19 pandemic."
letter-sta
In December 2019, the Alberta Ministry of Health announced an initiative intended to reduce the costs of medication coverage for Alberta citizens who receive biologic treatments, specifically in this case involving the drug Remicade. The affected recipients suffer from a variety of debilitating immune system disorders including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s Disease and colitis, each of which presents a severe detriment to "quality of life." Through the controversial process of "non-medical switching," targeted individuals are obliged to substitute the time-proven and effective biologic they currently receive in favour of a bio-similar such as Inflectra or Renflexis. While neither the potential cost savings nor efficacy of the bio-similar drugs themselves is being argued here, it is the considerable risk of subjecting the recipients whose health status is already tenuous to additional harm should rejection and/or other negative complications arise. Adding to this the increased likelihood of required hospitalization at a time when resources are already severely strained, the matter becomes both alarming and worrisome for all. 

The government initially set a completion date of July 15, 2020, upon which all parties involved, through the co-operation of their physicians, must have switched over to the bio-similar. But then in the late winter/early spring of 2020, along came the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to this threat, the government wisely extended the deadline to Jan. 15, 2021, which is now rapidly approaching. This brings us to the current situation where it could be said that nothing has changed in terms of the conditions that necessitated the initial six-month extension, but truth be told things have gotten much worse as we are presently mired in the even greater danger of a "second wave."

On a personal note, those such as myself who besides being part of the recipient group have yet the added disadvantage of being at even greater risk of COVID-19 infection due to advancing age, face a ‘double jeopardy’ of sorts. In recognizing this, the government must surely realize that their previous rationale applies to an even greater extent today.  While following the science, it is imperative that caution should once again prevail with this non-medical switching program being indefinitely suspended (if not cancelled outright) until conclusive evidence can be shown that the pandemic is no more.

Murray Lambert, St. Albert