The first biosimilar version of Pfizer/Amgen’s multi-billion-dollar anti-inflammatory Enbrel (etancerpt) has now been launched in the UK, offering access to a cheaper alternative that could drive down healthcare costs.

Made by Samsung Bioepis, a joint venture between Samsung Biologics and Biogen, Benepali is now available for the treatment of adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, axial spondyloarthritis and plaque psoriasis.  

Together, these chronic inflammatory diseases are estimated to affect more than two million people in the UK. 

Anti-TNFs account for around five percent of NHS spend on medicines, with etanercept expenditure ranking third highest of all medicines prescribed in the UK.

According to Biogen, use of etanercept biosimilars such as Benepali could save up to £380 million over five years, with the savings used to treat an estimated 37,000 extra patients.

“Anti-TNFs such as etanercept have revolutionised the outlook for patients living with conditions like RA,” said Oxford University’s Professor Peter Taylor. “Biosimilars offer an opportunity to help reduce NHS costs and potentially expand the number of patients who can benefit from these important treatment options.”

The launch of Benepali comes hot on the heels of new guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommending that patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis should be started on the most cost-effective treatment option. 

The move also follows European approval earlier this year, on the back of a Phase III clinical study showing comparable safety and equivalent efficacy to Enbrel, with ACR20 response rates of 80.8% versus 81.5%, respectively.