Two new biosimilars ‘could save NHS millions’


Two biosimilar medicines for the treatment of patients with specific blood cancers and a range of inflammatory conditions have been made available for patients in the UK.

Sandoz UK, a division of Swiss global healthcare company Novartis, announced that Rixathon, a version of rituximab, for the treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and immunological diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, and Erelzi, a biosimilar of etanercept, for patients with inflammatory conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and plaque psoriasis, could provide much-needed cost savings for the NHS.

In line with recommendations from NHS England, both drugs will be made available on the NHS with no requirement for a separate appraisal.

Tim de Gavre, country head for Sandoz UK, the generics arm of Swiss global healthcare company Novartis, said the availability of Rixathon and Erelzi marked “an important milestone for the NHS and for patients”.

He said: “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, which may then be reinvested back into the health service.

“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.”

Approval and the subsequent availability of these medicines was based on analytical, pre-clinical and clinical data demonstrating biosimilarity to the respective reference medicines.

In 2015–2016, the NHS spent more than £415 million on rituximab and etanercept[1]

Sandoz said it is looking to undercut current listed market pricing for both drugs by 8–10%. Further discounts may be negotiated locally by the NHS.


[1] NHS Digital. Prescribing costs in hospitals and the community. Available at: (last accessed June 2017)

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, July 2017, Vol 299, No 7903;299(7903):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20203157

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