NHS Improvement, the body that oversees the financial stability, quality, and operational performance of England’s National Health Service (NHS) trusts, reports that switching patients to biosimilars and generics of high-cost drugs led to £324 million ($424 million) in savings in the last financial year, and that it could benefit from an additional £100 million ($131 million) in savings this financial year from greater biosimilar use.
NHS Improvement, the body that oversees the financial stability, quality, and operational performance of England’s National Health Service (NHS) trusts, reported this week that switching patients to biosimilars and generics of high-cost drugs led to £324 million ($424 million) in savings in the last financial year, and that it could benefit from an additional £100 million ($131 million) in savings this financial year from greater biosimilar use.
For the 2017 to 2018 financial year, NHS Improvement set a savings target of £250 million ($327 million) and sought to achieve that goal by switching patients from 10 of the highest-cost therapies to generic or biosimilar alternatives. The NHS beat its goal, due in part to switches to lower-cost biosimilars for infliximab, etanercept, and rituximab.
Switching patients to biosimilars of these drugs led to significant cost savings: infliximab biosimilars delivered £99.4 million in savings, etanercept biosimilars delivered £60.3 million, and rituximab biosimilars delivered £50.4 million, for a cumulative savings equivalent to approximately $275 million in US currency.
This year, the NHS expects to achieve its additional £100 million in savings by taking advantage of biosimilars for 2 more high-cost therapies: trastuzumab, for the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancers, and adalimumab, for the treatment of inflammatory diseases. Biosimilar trastuzumab has been commissioned as an alternative to the reference Herceptin since July 2018, and multiple adalimumab biosimilars are expected to become available in October 2018. The NHS reports that the reference adalimumab, Humira, is the single drug on which the NHS currently spends the most money each year.
Next steps for NHS Improvement include developing a monthly tracking system that will allow individual NHS trusts to assess where they can save money by switching to any of the 10 better value medicines. Discussing the tracker, Member of Parliament Steve Barclay, health minister for the Department of Health and Social Care, said in a statement, “We want to support the NHS to make sure every penny is spent effectively. For too long vital funds have been used to buy expensive medicines instead of equally effective and better value alternatives. Under our long-term plan for the NHS, which will see us increase funding by an average 3.4% per year, we need to do better.”
Additionally, as part of its commissioning framework for biologics, the NHS seeks to ensure that at least 90% of new patients be prescribed the “best value biological medicine,” and that 80% of existing patients be given the best value medicines within a year of a biosimilar’s launch. The frameworks asks providers to keep up to date with local policies on switching to biosimilars, and to ensure that they know what their practices are spending on biologic treatments.
Finally, the NHS also has a recommendation for patients: those receiving treatment with biologics should ask their healthcare providers if there are suitable biosimilar options that they may receive for treatment.