Ontario has become the third Canadian province to add Erelzi (etanercept), a biosimilar therapy to Enbrel developed by Sandoz, to its public health plan for treatment of polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
Canada has a unique system of public therapy coverage and reimbursement. The decision, which follows an agreement between the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance, a collective price negotiation process, and Sandoz Canada, allows for public funds to finance the therapy for patients in need.
Erelzi reimbursement follows specific criteria for various diseases. It covers polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis for patients ages 4-17; adult patients with moderate to severe active rheumatoid arthritis; and patients with active ankylosing spondylitis.
Erelzi is available as a 25 mg and 50 mg pre-filled syringe. Patients with limited dexterity can use an ergonomic device called the SensoReady pre-filled pen.
“The biosimilar Erelzi adds to the choices that patients and rheumatologists have to treat inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and juvenile arthritis,” Janet Pope, professor of medicine at the University of Western Ontario‘s Schulich School of Medicine, said in a press release.
“The government of Ontario is demonstrating its commitment to making therapy for these diseases more broadly available in order to improve the lives of more patients,” Pope added.
Etanercept, marketed in North America by Amgen under the brand name Enbrel, is a biologic that targets tumor necrosis factor (TNF) to reduce inflammation in people with inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
Erelzi is a biosimilar of etanercept, meaning it shows the same therapeutic activities, safety, and quality as the reference medicine. The production of biosimilars can only begin after a reference treatment no longer has patent exclusivity.
The advantage of biosimilars is that they increase access to effective treatments at reduced costs. Canada’s Patented Medicine Prices Review Board estimated that cost savings from using biosimilars range from $332 million to $1.81 billion.
“Sandoz is pleased that Ontario recognizes the important impact that access to Erelzi can have on reducing the burden of disease and delivering important savings to the healthcare system and the public drug plan,” said Nadia Turchetta, executive director of biopharmaceuticals at Sandoz Canada.
“Erelzi is another concrete example of how Sandoz is making access happen by offering high-quality medicines at a more affordable price, which will deliver important savings to the healthcare system,” Turchetta added.
Erelzi was approved by Health Canada in April 2017 and launched in Canada in August 2017. British Columbia and Prince Edward Island were the first Canadian provinces to add Erelzi to their public health plans for the treatment of inflammatory diseases, including juvenile arthritis.