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UK launch of two Novartis biosimilars could cut NHS costs

Published on 27/06/17 at 10:09am

Sandoz, a division of Swiss pharma giant Novartis, has revealed that two of its biosimilars – Rixathon (biosimilar rituximab) and Erelzi (biosimilar etanercept) – are now available in the UK for use in Europe. Both new medicines have been proven to be non-inferior to their reference products, MabThera and Enbrel, respectively.

Both products are approved in all the same indications as their reference products; Rixathon will be available as a treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and immunological disorders including rheumatoid arthritis, granulomatosis with polyangitis. Meanwhile, Erelzi has been made available for a range of inflammatory diseases including rheumatoid, psoriatic and juvenile idiopathic arthritis, plaque psoriasis, and ankylosing and non-radiographic spondylitis. Between them, almost three million people are affected by these diseases and stand to benefit from increased availability of treatment options like these.   

NHS spending on medicines increased by 8% from £16.8 billion in 2015/16, with £415 million on reference products rituximab and etanercept alone; these new treatments could help provide cost savings for the cash-strapped service.

“The availability of new biosimilar medicines – which offer equal efficacy to the originator products and provide both patients and physicians more choice in treatment options – offer a real opportunity for cost savings within the NHS, that may then be reinvested back into the health service,” explained Dr Samir Agrawal, Consultant Haematologist at St Bartholomew’s Hospitals and The Barts Health NHS Trust. “This comes at a crucial time for the NHS, which is currently constrained by enormous financial pressure. The hope is that rapid uptake of the medicines will translate to cost savings for the NHS which patients may quickly benefit from.”

Tim de Gavre, Country Head of Sandoz UK, added:  “The availability of Rixathon and Erelzi marks an important milestone for the NHS, for patients and for Sandoz. Biosimilar medicines such as these have real potential to expand patient access to effective treatments, while providing the NHS with essential cost savings. Today’s availability of not just one, but two, new Sandoz biosimilar medicines makes us the only company to have five approved biosimilar medicines in Europe, cementing our leadership in this space and reinforcing our commitment to providing these much-needed medicines to patients.”

Matt Fellows

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