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NHS England to increase biosimilar usage Posted 20/10/2017

On 12 September 2017, National Health Service (NHS) England released a ‘Commissioning framework for biological medicines (including biosimilar medicines)’. In this document, they make a series of recommendations with the aim of increasing both biological and biosimilar uptake. As a result of increased competition between biologicals, creating better value biological medicines and biosimilars, NHS England believes that it can make savings of GBP 200 − GBP 300 million a year by 2020/21 by increasing uptake of these better value biologicals.

The guidance framework recommends that at least 90 per cent of new patients be prescribed the ‘best value biological medicine within three months of launch of a biosimilar medicine’. It also hopes that 80 per cent of existing patients can be prescribed the cheaper medicine option within 12 months. As such, it urges prompt action to be taken by all those involved in health care, from the patients to prescribers, and practitioners to commissioners. The document notes that Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and providers need to ‘work together to develop plans for the quick and effective uptake of the best value biological medicine’. In addition, they must include prescribers and patients in decision-making to make sure that the best value and clinically effective medicines are used. They propose that Regional Medicines Optimisation Committees (RMOCs) lead the way, coordinating the systematic uptake of biosimilar medicines and ensuring plans are in place by the end of 2017.

This guidance framework was produced in response to the NHS Five Year Forward View, originally published in 2014, which urged NHS England to maximize the value that patients receive from medicines. This is because the amount spent on medicines by the heath service increases steadily year on year. For example, in 2015/16 NHS England spent GBP 16.8 billion on medicines which is an eight per cent increase on the previous year. The framework highlights that the introduction of biosimilar infliximab, to treat rheumatology conditions and inflammatory bowel disease, and etanercept, for rheumatology conditions, have led to NHS savings of GBP 160 million per annum since their introduction (in 2015 and 2016, respectively).

Reducing the amount spent on medicines will allow NHS England to fund innovative treatments and improve the overall health care it provides. This framework hopes to urge CCGs to act quickly and maximize savings without compromising on quality of care or clinical outcomes.

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