Novartis unit Sandoz has unveiled plans to launch five biosimilars of major oncology and immunology biologics across key global markets by 2020, potentially broadening access to treatment.

The group says its plan to have a total of eight on the market by then is underpinned by an "aggressive regulatory submissions strategy" of 11 filings over a three-year period through 2017, six of which have already been completed.

Subject to regulatory requirements and approvals, Sandoz' upcoming launches will include biosimilars of Enbrel (etancercept), Humira (adalumumab), Neulasta (pegfilgrastrim), Remicade (inflximab), and Rituxan (rituximab), which collectively generate annual sales of nearly $44 billion.

The firm will be hoping that its cheaper alternatives, that are clinically comparable and could reportedly be offered at discounts of up to 75 percent in some cases, will steal significant market share from their reference biologics and enable more patients access to treatment.

"Access to medicines remains the single largest unmet healthcare need in developed and developing countries alike," noted Richard Francis, division head and chief executive of Sandoz.

"Biologics have revolutionised treatment of many disabling and life-threatening diseases but far too many people who need these medicines are not able to access them".

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, highlighting their potential.

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

Meanwhile, Sandoz also announced that, by 2020, it will have invested some $1 billion into expanding state-of-the-art biomanufacturing facilities at Schaftenau and Kundl, Austria, to secure delivery of its biosimilars to patients around the globe.