The NHS has celebrated a year of successful cost savings, with NHS Improvement announcing that its target of £250 million savings has been bettered by £74 million. In part, the savings were produced by trusts making good use of generic versions of existing medicines, or biosimilars of existing medicines, which produce the same effects but at lower prices.
A biosimilar is a different chemical to the one in the original biological medicine (such as those extracted from plants), but one that has been proven to be similar chemical structure and medical efficacy. These may also be cheaper than the original biological medicine.
In the year 2017-18, NHS uptake of biosimilars of infliximab (used for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis) produced £99,400,000 of savings, and generic versions of imatinib (an anti-cancer drug) saved £66,333,000. This trend is expected to continue. NHS Improvement say:
“In addition, biosimilars of adalimumab, which treats rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis, and is the medicine on which the NHS currently spends most money, are likely to be available alongside the original biological medicine (known as Humira®) after October 2018.”
It’s also known that a biosimilar for herceptin, the breast cancer drug, was launched earlier this year under the name Ontruzant (trastzumab).