NHS saved £324 million by switching to biosimilars and generics

The UK’s national healthcare provider saved £324 million by switching its patients to “better value” biosimilar and generic drugs, which are considered to be “equally effective alternatives”.

The biggest savings came from the swap to more cost-effective treatments for arthritis and inflammatory bowel conditions. The NHS saved nearly £99.4 million by using Infliximab, the biosimilar version of Jannssen’s Remicade and £60 million by switching from Amgen/Pfizer’s Enbrel to Etanercept.

In addition two heavily used oncology drugs: generic Imatinib and Rituximab biosimilar contributed to a £117 million cost saving.

Further spending reductions were made through use of  generic versions of the antifungal treatments Voriconazole, Valganciclovir and Caspofungin, and Prednisolone used to treat asthma patients.

Keith Ridge

Keith Ridge

Keith Ridge, chief pharmaceutical officer at NHS England, said: “Biosimilar medicines are safe and effective. As we develop a ten-year plan for the NHS we will be working to promote their use more widely, enabling the NHS to reinvest hundreds of millions of pounds into innovative new treatments and patient care.”

Jeremy Marlow, executive director of Operational Productivity at NHS Improvement, commented: “As more people are diagnosed with long term conditions, such as arthritis and cancer, we must ensure the NHS uses its resources as efficiently as possible to treat and care for them.

“By delivering £324 million in savings in a single year from switching to better value but equally effective and safe medicines, the NHS has been able to help more patients manage their conditions.”

Steve Barclay, Health Minister for Department of Health and Social Care, said “With over £300 million saved and potentially more savings to come, this work is a perfect demonstration of the NHS using taxpayers’ money wisely whilst still delivering patients with the outstanding care that they need.”

The NHS is planning to make further savings this year of £200 million as two further original biological medicines are due to come off patent.

Pfizer’s biosimilar of trastuzumab Trazimera, which treats breast cancer, will also significantly contribute to savings this year, after it has been recently commissioned by NHS England as an alternative to the frequently used branded medicine Herceptin.

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