Arthritis Society responds to updated Ministry guidelines on Remicade

February 5, 2015

Potential for drug substitution can threaten patients’ successful treatment

MONTREAL - February 5, 2015

The policy announced this week by the Quebec Ministry of Health regarding funding for a biologic arthritis drug raises questions for both patients and physicians, says The Arthritis Society.

Many Quebec residents are prescribed the biologic drug Remicade® (infliximab) to help manage severe pain and inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. The arrival to market of a similar drug – Inflectra® – provides the province with a less expensive alternative (a difference of 31%, amounting to thousands of dollars for a typical patient).

“Access to more treatments – and to less expensive options – is good for all concerned,” explains Eric Amar, executive director of The Arthritis Society’s Quebec division, “but patients need certainty that a medication they are responding well to won’t be swapped out down the road in favour of a cheaper alternative.”

Inflectra is a subsequent entry biologic, or SEB, produced by another manufacturer after the original biologic’s patent expires. Unlike typical generic drugs, however, biologics are so complex that SEBs cannot be considered exact duplicates. They are similar but not identical to the original drug, which is why in a recent position paper The Society advocated against drug substitution for biologics.

“There is not enough information about the impact of switching from an innovator biologic to an SEB mid-treatment,” said Dr Frédéric Morin, rheumatologist and AMRQ president. “While SEBs may prove effective for newly-diagnosed patients, patients who are already responding well to an established course of treatment should only switch prescriptions out of medical necessity, not for financial reasons.”

The Arthritis Society has requested a meeting with Gaétan Barrette, Quebec’s health minister, to seek clarity on the government’s policy.

The Arthritis Society has been setting lives in motion for over 65 years. Dedicated to a vision of living well while creating a future without arthritis, The Society is Canada’s principal health charity providing education, programs and support to the over 4.6 million Canadians living with arthritis. Since its founding in 1948, The Society has been the largest non-government funder of arthritis research in Canada, investing nearly $190 million in projects that have led to breakthroughs in the diagnosis, treatment and care of people with arthritis. The Arthritis Society is accredited under Imagine Canada’s Standards Program.  For more information and to make a donation, visit

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For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Diane De Bonville
Communications Manager
Arthritis Society Quebec Division
514-846-8840 ext. 2433