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Category: Innovation
Published: November 16, 2020

Biosimilars: Increasing Patient Access and Sustainable Healthcare

Mike Woolcock, Senior Vice-President, Apobiologix

Since their first use in the 1980s, biological medicines have come to occupy an important position in today’s modern healthcare, revolutionizing patient care for some diseases. They represent an important but expensive proportion of new drugs1. Addressing their rising costs has become a priority for healthcare systems around the world.

As we celebrate Global Biosimilars Week, let’s acknowledge the contributions that biosimilars provide to patients and healthcare providers. Designed to be similar to another already approved biological medicine, biosimilars are approved to the same standards of quality, safety and efficacy that apply to biological medicines. Significant cost savings aside, the availability of biosimilars enhances competition while increasing patient access.

If we look to Canada as an example, in 2016, Grastofil® (filgrastim) was the first biosimilar approved by Health Canada for oncology patients followed in 2019 by Lapelga® (pegfilgrastim). These Granulocyte Colony-Stimulating Factor (G-CSF) biosimilars, as they are known, stimulate the body to make white blood cells in patients undergoing certain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, which helps them fight infections. Since the availability of Grastofil and Lapelga (starting April 2016), approximately 10,000 more Canadian patients have benefitted from increased access to these products. This, coupled with a savings of almost $80 million to the Canadian healthcare system over the same period, demonstrates the impact of biosimilar medicines on both patients and governments.  

Beyond this Canadian example, around the globe, biosimilar medicines are being introduced, enhancing competition in the marketplace2 and alleviating some of the financial burden placed on global healthcare systems. Shifting focus to Europe which pioneered the development, licensing and marketing of biosimilar medicines3, in the five largest European markets alone, biosimilar medicines have saved around $1.6 billion USD4. In the US, while only two percent of America’s patients use biologics, they account for about 40 percent of prescription drug spending in the country. Biosimilars offer this country the potential for tens of billions of dollars in savings5.

Healthcare dollars need to be spent wisely to ensure the ongoing sustainability of global healthcare systems. Looking forward, patent expiries present a significant opportunity for the introduction of additional biosimilar medicines6. The resulting potential savings associated with biosimilars can be diverted to any number of other healthcare initiatives to increase the health and well-being of patients around the globe.

  1. QuintilesIMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Global Medicines Use in 2020: Outlook and Implications. 2015. Available at:

  2. QuintilesIMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Delivering on the Potential of Biosimilar Medicines. 2016.

  3. EMA Biosimilar Guidelines. Available at : Accessed October 2020;

  4. Lynch C. Pharma Horizon 2016;1:2–3

  5. Biosimilars Handbook. Available at

  6. QuintilesIMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Delivering on the Potential of Biosimilar Medicines. 2016.

About Apobiologix

Apobiologix is a leader in the field of biosimilar development. A division of Apotex Inc., Apobiologix is focused on biosimilar products, including Grastofil® and Lapelga®, aimed at providing patients and providers with high quality, affordable medicines.  

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