The NHS saves £324 million in a year by switching to better value medicines

The NHS saved £324 million last financial year by switching from using 10 expensive medicines to better value and equally effective alternatives, with even more saving to be achieved this year.

Better value biosimilar and generic medicines, which are just as safe and effective as the more expensive original biological versions, treat conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, some forms of cancer and inflammatory bowel conditions.

In addition, biosimilars of adalimumab, which treats rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis, and is the medicine on which the NHS currently spends most money, are likely to be available alongside the original biological medicine (known as Humira®) after October 2018. 

Our saving so far

In 2017/2018, we set a savings target of £250 million for NHS trusts that use the 10 expensive medicines. The trusts have exceeded the target by £74 million.

We're working with NHS trusts to build on this achievement and make further savings of around £200 million this financial year. 

Around £100 million of this will come from savings generated through using new biosimilar medicines as two further original biological medicines come off patent. Biosimilars of trastuzumab, which treats breast cancer, have been commissioned by NHS England as an alternative to the branded medicine Herceptin® since Monday 16 July. 

Medicine Treats Savings delivered
Infliximab biosimilars uptake Rheumatoid diseases and inflammatory bowel diseases £99,400,000
Imatinib generic Anti-cancer medicine £66,333,000
Etanercept biosimilars uptake Rheumatoid diseases £60,300,000
Rituximab biosimilars uptake Certain cancers and rheumatoid conditions £50,430,000
Voriconazole Antifungal medicine which fights infections caused by fungus in the stomach, guts, lungs etc £15,912,000
Linezolid generic Anti-infective medicine £14,922,000
Valganciclovir Antiviral £7,096,000
Prednisolone Soluble Asthma £4,946,000
Caspofungin Antifungal medicine which fights infections caused by fungus in the stomach, guts, lungs etc £4,891,000
Anti-emetic** Used to stop vomiting and nausea -£37,000
Total £324,193,000.00

**NB the changes to Anti-Emetic medicine choice was unsuccessful in delivering savings due to clinical practice changes.

'As more people are diagnosed with long term conditions, such as arthritis and cancer, we must ensure the NHS uses its resources as efficiently as possible to treat and care for them.

'By delivering £324 million in savings in a single year from switching to better value but equally effective and safe medicines, the NHS has been able to help more patients manage their conditions.

'There is more still to do, with £200 million of additional savings to be achieved this year. We will also continue to find further opportunities to use medicines more effectively and make every penny of the NHS’s budget count.'

Dr Jeremy Marlow, Executive Director of Operational Productivity, NHS Improvement

Next steps

We're helping NHS trusts to understand what they are spending and where savings can be realised by providing hospitals with a monthly tracker to show how much they could save by switching to the ten better value medicines. The tracker, which is part of our Model Hospital system, calculates savings from using generic or biosimilar medicines for each trust on a monthly basis. 

This system utilises the actual costs of medicines used by individual organisations to calculate the true benefit to the NHS.

'We want to support the NHS to make sure every penny is spent effectively. For too long vital funds have been used to buy expensive medicines instead of equally effective and better value alternatives. Under our long-term plan for the NHS, which will see us increase funding by an average 3.4% per year, we need to do better. 

'With over £300 million saved and potentially more savings to come, this work is a perfect demonstration of the NHS using taxpayers’ money wisely whilst still delivering patients with the outstanding care that they need.'

Steve Barclay MP, Health Minister for Department of Health and Social Care

'Biosimilar medicines are safe and effective. As we develop a ten year plan for the NHS we will be working to promote their use more widely, enabling the NHS to reinvest hundreds of millions of pounds into innovative new treatments and patient care.'

Dr Keith Ridge, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, NHS England

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