UK – NHS set to save £150 million by switching to new versions of most costly drug

Health chief Simon Stevens has today asked NHS hospitals to ensure they are ready to realise savings of up to £150 million a year to reinvest in frontline care after the patent on the NHS’s most costly drug ends this week.

Adalimumab is the single medicine on which hospitals spend the most, at a cost of more than £400 million a year.

More than 46,000 patients are prescribed the drug, which is only currently available under the brand name Humira®, for hospital treated, serious conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis.

However, doctors are now being asked to also consider equally effective, safe, ‘biosimilar’ versions of Adalimumab after the exclusive patent on the drug expires on Tuesday 16th October.

NHS England has issued guidance to Trusts and CCGs telling them that nine out of 10 new patients should be started on the best value medicine within three months of a biosimilar launch. At least 80% of existing patients should be switched to the best value biologic (which could be the originator or a biosimilar) within 12 months.

Biosimilar versions of Adalimumab are expected to be available to NHS patients from December this year, and could help save at least £150 million per year by 2021 depending on the price agreed for the drugs. The ongoing use of Humira® may also continue where clinically appropriate and where it is best value.

NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens said: “Biosimilar versions of widely used, expensive drugs are already delivering safe, effective treatment for patients across the NHS, including those with cancer.