Switching Rheumatoid Arthritis Medications: What’s the Big Deal?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that causes the body’s immune system to attack the joints, resulting in inflammation, swelling and pain.

Finding an effective medication that helps manage the condition can, for many patients, be a lengthy process. Some patients are prescribed biologic medications, of which there are two different kinds: innovator biologics and biosimilars. The nature of their differences means that physicians and patients need to carefully consider a switch from one to the other.

As the name suggests, biosimilars are similar but not identical to the innovator biologics they intend to copy. Both types of drugs are produced from living cells using very precise manufacturing processes. Given their inherent complexity and the size of the molecules, it is impossible for a biosimilar to be an exact replica of the innovator biologic.

Some patients who are on one product may be faced with a decision to switch medications, due to costs, changes in reimbursement, or other non-medical issues. Patients should be fully informed before making any decisions related to their medications. Health Canada recommends that a decision to switch from an innovator biologic to a biosimilar only be made by the treating physician in consultation with the patient.

The infographic below helps patients and caregivers understand the differences between innovator biologics and biosimilars, and explains Health Canada’s recommendations around switching.

Infographic about the dangers of switching biologics and biosimilars

Click here to download this infographic

Ultimately, patients should speak to their doctors about their treatment, and always make sure they’re getting the medication they expect to receive.


After reading this article and watching this video, are you more likely to speak to your doctor about getting the rheumatoid arthritis medication you expect?


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