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The NHS is on track to make record savings of £300m after negotiating deals on low cost versions of the health service’s most expensive drug.
Deals with five manufacturers have been made to on biosimilar versions of adalimumab. The drug is used to treat 46,000 patients with conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis.
The savings will mean hospitals will pay around a quarter of the amount they usually spend on adalimumab, which is over £400m each year.
This is the largest saving in NHS history from a single drug negotiation, according to NHS England.
It means NHS England is on target to meet its ambition to cut £300m from the nation’s annual medicines bill by 2021.
Adalimumab’s exclusive patent recently expired, meaning the NHS could accept bids from companies that manufacture biosimilar versions of the medicine.
Humira, which is the original brand of adalimumab, will continue to be used “where clinically appropriate”, NHS England said.
The new versions of the drug will be available to NHS patients in December. NHS England has issued guidance that nine out of 10 new patients should be started on the best value biological medicine within three months of a biosimilar launch. It also set out the target of having 80% of existing patients switched to the best value medicine within 12 months.
NHS England’s chief executive, Simon Stevens, said: “As part of the NHS’s long term plan, we are ensuring every penny of extra investment is wisely spent. Harnessing the power of competition between drug companies, NHS England has now freed up hundreds of millions of pounds of savings to reinvest in patient care.
‘This is another example of how the smarter approach to biosimilar medicines in the UK and Europe gives patients and taxpayers a much better deal than they get in the United States.’
In 2016/17, the NHS spent £18.2 billion on medicines, however in 2017/18 the NHS saved over £200m by using best value biologics.