Novartis’ generics arm Sandoz has launched Zarzio, its biosimilar version of Amgen’s Neupogen, in the UK for the treatment of neutropenia in patients receiving chemotherapy or those infected with HIV.

Neutropenia is characterised by a low white blood cell count and Zarzio (filgrastim), a natural protein manufactured commercially by recombinant DNA technology, is designed to treat the condition by stimulating the production of neutrophils to readdress the balance in the body.

Although the drug has a comparable quality, safety and efficacy profile to that of its rival Neupogen, Sandoz claims that it offers two important advantages in that it is more cost-effective and offers a needlestick protection device to reduce the risk of accidental injury to healthcare professionals and thereby blood-borne infections.

According to Sandoz, the treatment of neutropenia costs the National Health Service around £60 million a year, and it claims that switching patients to Zarzio could help garner savings of around £1.5 million annually as it is 10% cheaper than Neupogen, currently the most popular therapy for the condition.

Furthermore, given that needlestick injuries cost the NHS around £500,000 a year, additional savings could be generated by the use of Zarzio as it is the only filgrastim preparation to be come with a novel needle safety device, the group notes.