NHS cuts medicines costs by three quarters of a billion pounds

2 Sep 2019 11:58 AM

The NHS has saved more than £700 million from the annual medicines bill to reinvest in new treatments as part of the Long Term Plan.

An NHS-wide campaign has supported patients and doctors to maximise the use of ‘generic’ and best value ‘biologic’ treatments to treat conditions including arthritis and cancer.

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 single drug – adalimumab – treatment for arthritis and other diseases, saved £110 million alone thanks to a ‘smart procurement’, after the drug came off patent at the end of 2018.

Previously adalimumab was the individual medicine on which hospitals spend the most, at a cost of more than £400 million a year.

Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, recently said: 

“The NHS is one of the most efficient health services in the world but 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.

“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 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.

Taken together the savings mean the campaign to drive take-up has seen more than £700 million freed up to reinvest in other effective medicines.

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.

This money can be then be reinvested in other new, innovative and cost-effective treatments.

These benefits have only been possible by working closely with patients, clinical teams and NHS trusts.

The decision to switch to a best value medicine should always be done in consultation with the patient, through shared decision making.

Medicine Treats 2018-2019 savings delivered
Adalimumab best value biologic uptake Rheumatoid diseases, dermatological and inflammatory bowel diseases £109,668,408
Infliximab best value biologic uptake Rheumatoid diseases and inflammatory bowel diseases £31,964,413
Etanercept best value biologic uptake Rheumatoid diseases £36,077,607
Rituximab best value biologic uptake Certain cancers and rheumatoid conditions £45,174,920
Imatinib generic uptake Types of cancer £18,848,913
Linezolid generic uptake Types of bacterial infection £2,037,999
Prednisolone Soluble Asthma £37,786
Valganciclovir generic uptake Types of fungal infection £3,833,955
Voriconazole generic uptake Types of fungal infection £6,983,219
Caspofungin generic uptake Types of fungal infection £8,485,062
Trastuzumab best value biologic uptake Breast cancers £24,254,902
Total   £293,785,789