EU Report Highlights the Need for Biosimilars in Fostering Sustainable Health Systems

The European Commission has released a new report that highlights the role that biosimilars and generics will have in the wellbeing of European healthcare systems in the years ahead.

The European Commission has released a new report that highlights the role that biosimilars and generics will have in the wellbeing of European healthcare systems in the years ahead.

The report, titled “State of Health in the EU,” is part of an ongoing effort to support knowledge sharing across the European Union, and gauges the region’s progress toward accessible and resilient health systems across Europe.

The report notes that wasteful spending remains a challenge across the EU region; reducing such unnecessary spending—as much as one-fifth of health spending is wasteful, the report says—and reallocating funds to better use will be crucial as health system evolve.

Addressing the overuse of hospital services, reducing unnecessary admissions, reducing delayed discharges, and tackling other excess spending in hospitals will be one key to addressing excessive spending, but pharmaceuticals are another area ripe for savings. After inpatient and outpatient care, say the report’s authors, pharmaceuticals are the third largest component of healthcare system spending in Europe.

“While a high level of spending does not in itself indicate waste, optimizing the value derived from medicines expenditure and identifying and eliminating waste where it occurs are both critical to achieving efficient and sustainable health care systems,” write the authors, and the promotion of generics and biosimilars is a key priority, as patent expiries on branded products expected through 2024 represent opportunities for substantial savings.

Despite the fact that 90% of global biosimilar sales take place in the EU market, the overall market penetration of biosimilars in Europe remains relatively low; biosimilars are not uniformly available across countries, with Germany representing the only EU nation in which all approved biosimilars were available and funded as of 2017. Furthermore, price reductions for biosimilars have not been as large as those seen with small-molecule generics, though discounts of 60% or more have been reported for some products.

The report states that, in the European experience to date, there is only a weak correlation between biosimilar market share and price reductions, suggesting barriers to effective competition. According to the authors, “Promoting biosimilar uptake is important for driving savings and ensuring the continued participation of players in the market, but it is the market entry of biosimilars that promotes price competition.”

Promoting competition and encouraging uptake for generics and biosimilars will generate substantial savings, and using both supply- and demand-side levers will help to promote better value for resources spent, write the authors. Prescribers and patients need to understand the value of these products, and to be educated as to their equivalence to their reference products.

In a statement concerning the report’s findings, Adrian van den Hoven, director general of the biosimilar and generics trade group Medicines for Europe, said, “The launch of the 2019 State of Health in the EU report reinforces the opportunities brought by generic and biosimilar medicines to improve equitable and sustainable access. We see all over Europe that health systems are struggling to deliver efficient care, while pharmaceutical budgets continue to spiral. Our hope is that EU and national policies seize these opportunities and develop better policies to ensure generic and biosimilar medicines use.”

Ultimately, said van den Hoven, spurring biosimilar and generic use will improve the function of health systems and foster patient access.