We all know someone touched by cancer, and while each person living with this disease is unique, the one thing that stays the same for everyone, is that the impact of a cancer diagnosis is life changing.

A patient’s treatment plan plays a huge role in this life-altering journey, making it that much more important for them and their loved ones to have access to a variety of effective treatment options.

That’s why the evolution of oncology treatment and the entry of biosimilars to the Canadian marketplace is such an important topic of discussion among regulators, healthcare professionals, and patients alike.

Advancements in how we care for patients and treat cancer has evolved significantly over the last few decades, starting with the introduction of biologic medicines, followed biosimilars.

Biologic medicines, which are made from living organisms, have been effective treatment options for more than 20 years. We are proud to say that Roche’s research has played a pivotal role in the development and use of these biologic treatments in Canada, many of which have had a marked impact on quality and quantity of life for many patients with cancer and other diseases.

The introduction of biosimilars has changed the Canadian healthcare landscape even further. Biosimilars, which are also made from living organisms, are similar but not identical versions of biologics. They can treat complex diseases and medical conditions like rheumatology, gastrointestinal disorders, and more recently, cancer, while also saving the healthcare system valuable dollars which can be used to fund new therapies.

In recognizing the value they bring to cancer patients, the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance and Cancer Care Ontario developed an Action Plan in early 2019 as a guide for introducing oncology biosimilars into our provincial cancer systems – the goal was to consider the different settings in which biosimilars could be used. June 1, 2019, marked another important milestone in the evolution of oncology biosimilars when the CADTH Common Drug Review and the pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review announced they would no longer review biosimilar drug submissions, streamlining the regulatory and reimbursement process to give patients faster access to these medicines.

So, what does the integration of biosimilars mean for patients already on a biologic treatment?

For some this might mean they will switch from their current biologic to the biosimilar version of the drug, but that decision should be made in partnership with their healthcare provider, taking into consideration clinical evidence and relevant provincial policies.


Celebrating Progress and What it Means for Oncology Patients

The process for integrating such complex new innovations into the treatment regimen for cancer patients is not a small feat. We congratulate everyone involved - healthcare professionals, provincial policy makers, stakeholder and patient groups - for making the right decisions and for implementing policies that put patients first.

We are pleased to see that so far provincial cancer systems have genuinely kept the patient perspective at the centre of their decision making when it comes to introducing biosimilars in Canada. They have done this by allowing patients to finish their treatment on the biologic they started on rather than changing their medication part way through.

A cancer diagnosis can trigger a roller coaster of emotions like fear, anxiety and stress. Given these feelings of uncertainty, when it comes to cancer treatment, it is essential for patients to feel informed about their options, confident and assured that their treatment is safe and effective and feel involved in making those treatment decisions with their healthcare professional.

Changing medication can be an added stress to an already emotional time. Staying on the same treatment can leave patients feeling more at ease.


Continued Commitment and Hopes for the Future

As a research-driven pharmaceutical company, Roche Canada believes biosimilars are a natural evolution in healthcare and are a positive development for patients and the Canadian healthcare system.

We know there is still work ahead, and as biosimilars become increasingly available to cancer patients, it is important for policies to continue to consider the patient perspective, ensuring we are collectively putting patients first in all future decisions. At the end of the day, the best decision for any patient is the one they reach with their physician – patients trust their healthcare providers to do what is best for them. We encourage patients and their physicians to openly discuss the best decision as it relates to their treatment plan.

There are what seem to be almost endless opportunities to fulfill unmet medical needs, and our goal at Roche is to continue to improve the lives of patients with the innovative treatments we offer. We hope, together, we can continue to welcome advances in oncology treatment, including new therapies that are even better than what they are today.