The NHS has announced that it has saved more than £700 million from the annual medicines bill to reinvest in new treatments, as part of the Long Term Plan.
The money comes from an NHS-wide campaign, which supported patients and doctors to maximise the use of ‘generic’ and best value ‘biologic’ treatments to treat conditions including arthritis and cancer.
NHS England has previously announced plans to accelerate and widen the uptake of best value biologic medicines in a bid to save £400 million to £500 million per year by 2020/21, as the money can then be be reinvested in other "new, innovative and cost-effective treatments".
The new figures show that the uptake of best value medicines lowered costs to taxpayers by £294 million last year alone, on track to meet its ambitious target of a further £400 million annual savings by 2021.
A huge part of that saving was made up by a single drug, AbbVie’s Humira (adalimumab), as it came off patent at the end of 2018, allowing for "smart procurement". Previously it was the drug that hospitals spent the most on, as a cost of more than £400m a year.
The NHS also announced that the savings for 2018-19 come on top of the £413 million saved from the annual medicines bill in the previous two years by maximising the use of best value generic and biologic treatments.
Added together, the savings mean the campaign to drive take-up has seen more than £700 million freed up to reinvest in other effective medicines.
Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said that the NHS is one of the “most efficient health services in the world”, but ensured that “as part of the Long Term Plan, we will continue to drive changes to ensure every NHS pound is spent wisely and patients have access to innovative life changing medicines.”
He continued, “Use of the best value versions of expensive medicines is already delivering effective treatment for patients across the NHS, including those with cancer, offering the right care for patients while saving the tax payer hundreds of millions of pounds.”
The NHS reminds, however, that the decision to switch to a best value medicine should always be done in consultation with the patient, through shared decision making.