Napp Pharmaceuticals has launched Celltrion's Remicade biosimilar Remsima (infliximab) in the UK, potentially offering significant savings to the National Health Service while increasing patient access to this kind of therapy.

Remsima is licensed to treat a range of inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriasis, but, crucially, its NHS price tag is at least 30% lower than that of originator Remicade.

Given that the NHS spent a whopping £164 million on Remicade in 2013, it is hoped that the availability of a cheaper biosimilar will have a significant impact on the cash front, while also allowing more patients access to biologic treatment.

Education and collaboration

“Biosimilar medicines offer a unique opportunity to deliver high quality patient care in a more cost-effective way,” said Dr Anthony Grosso, a Principal Hospital Pharmacist, but he also stressed that “collaborative working will be required to ensure that maximal benefit is delivered to patients from these opportunities”.

Indeed, results of a survey by commissioned by Napp indicate that more education and support is essential if the NHS is to fully realise the opportunities presented by biosimilar medicines.

The survey, which represented a cross-section of NHS staff, revealed that only 20% of responders currently prescribe biosimilars, while one in five did not understand what they are and 80% said they needed further support/education on biosimilars and their place in therapy.

Meanwhile, Remsima will have to compete for market share with Hospira's Remicade biosimilar Inflectra (infliximab), which has also been launched in the UK today.

EU launches

Napp, an independent associate of the Mundipharma group, holds exclusive rights to sell Remsima in the UK, while Hospira holds exlusive rights to Inflectra in the the UK, but both are the same biosimilar and both are manufactured by Celltrion.

Celltrion has today also launched Remsima in 11 other European markets, including France, Germany and Italy.