Napp Pharmaceuticals has hit out at the NHS for its slow uptake of the company’s biosimilar of Remicade.

Napp claims that savings from switching all patients on Remicade (infliximab) to its biosimilars could total £90 million and offset the £80 million overspend of the Cancer Drugs Fund. It says that the NHS needs to give the drugs a higher priority because of this.

“Data shows that uptake in the UK is less than 5% of the original brand,” the company said in a statement. “This is in contrast to countries such as Denmark, where uptake at 6 months after launch was reported to be 90%. In Norway, uptake at 6 months after launch was 20% but has grown steadily to 69% as of July this year. This represents a huge missed opportunity for the NHS.”

Napp’s director of market access, Andrew Roberts, adds: “The NHS has missed out on significant cost savings over the past six months due to the lack of uptake of biosimilar infliximab; cost savings that are vital when the NHS is seeking over £20 billion in efficiency savings.

“There needs to be clear guidance and a robust system of accountability to drive faster adoption of biosimilar medicines at the CCG and Hospital Trust level. Only then can the NHS truly take advantage of the multiple benefits they will bring in the coming years and pass those benefits on to patients through improved services and increased access to medicines.”

Sarah Eglington, healthcare intelligence director at Binley’s, said: "Whilst there is evidence to support that initiating patients on biosimilars as a first-line treatment or switching patients to biosimilars may save the NHS money, our customer research shows that there is still a lot of anxiety around their use from both patients and clinicians.  For pharma as a whole, more engagement with key decision makers and education around the safety and efficacy of biosimilars, and their positive impact on the patient pathway, is needed to demonstrate that cost isn’t the only reason for making these changes."

Napp’s biosimilar is named Remsima. It competes with Hospira’s biosimilar Inflectra, but both are the same biosimilar manufactured by Celltrion.

Infliximab is used to treat a range of inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriasis. The NHS spent £164 million on Remicade in 2013, but Remsima’s price tag is at least 30% lower than its originator.