Novartis group Sandoz has launched two new biosimilars across the UK potentially expanding access to biologic treatments for a range of inflammatory conditions and blood cancers.

MabThera (rituximab) biosimilar Rixathon can be used to treat follicular lymphoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (both forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, as well as immunological diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, granulomatosis with polyangiitis and microscopic polyangiitis.  Collectively, these diseases affect around 416,500 people in the UK.

Enbrel (etanercept) biosimilar Erelzi will be available for inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, axial spondyloarthritis – ankylosing spondylitis and non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis – plaque psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis and paediatric plaque psoriasis, conditions which affect more than over 2.4 million people every year.

In 2016 the NHS spent more than £415 million on rituximab and etanercept. While pricing information is yet to be released, the introduction of biosimilar versions of these drugs, which can be 30 percent cheaper than their reference products, “may provide much needed cost savings for the NHS, freeing up resources to improve patient access to existing medicines and contributing to its financial sustainability,” Sandoz noted.

“Biosimilar medicines such as these have real potential to expand patient access to effective treatments, while providing the NHS with essential cost savings,” said Tim de Gavre, country head of Sandoz UK.

The company is the only one to have five approved biosimilar medicines in Europe, “cementing our leadership in this space and reinforcing our commitment to providing these much-needed medicines to patients,” he added.

Greater acceptance of biosimilar medicines in a growing number of therapy areas is expected to deliver total savings of as much as $110 billion to health systems across Europe and the US through 2020, according to research by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics published last year.

However, the report also stressed that price cuts alone will not be enough to ensure that biologics fully realise their potential, with educating physicians, patients and payers also be critical elements.