As patents are starting to expire on big-selling antibody treatments for serious diseases like cancer, it’s expected to move fast from here.

Experts have revealed that cut-price copies of an expensive Roche biotech drug for blood cancer have taken 80% of the British market since launching last year, saving the healthcare system £80 million ($113 million) a year. 

The hastened adoption of two biosimilar forms of rituximab from Novartis and Celltrion has been accompanied by discounts of up to 60% as the National Health System (NHS) has been outsourcing in an effort to bring costs down, Reuters writes. 


Biosimilars: Drug Copies Feed Off Big Pharma Companies


The circumstances over in the U.S. are quite on the contrary, as regulators have delayed Europe in approving biosimilars while a complicated system of deductions offered to insurers by original-brand drugmakers has created barriers to use. 

Scott Gottlieb, head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said earlier this month that a “rigged payment scheme” between drug plans, insurers and pharmaceutical companies has blocked access to less-expensive versions of some of the most expensive drugs in the U.S.


FDA Chief Blames “Rigged” System for Blocking Use of Lower-Cost Drugs


Even though some copies of biotech medicines have been sold in Europe for more than 10 years, it is now that patents are starting to expire on big-selling antibody treatments for serious diseases like cancer, and it’s expected to move fast from here.

Europe’s first biosimilar of Roche’s breast cancer antibody drug, Herceptin, was launched by Merck this month, and more copies are set to follow this year. 


Chinese Pharmaceutical Pushes into US Generics Market


A biosimilar of the world’s biggest selling medicine—AbbVie’s rheumatoid arthritis drug, Humira, is also expected later this year, accompanied by biosimilar Avastin, another Roche cancer drug, which is expected in 2019. 

Britain’s NHS estimate of saving up to £300 million a year on biosimilars could be even higher, looking at the scale of discounts achieved so far, according to Jatinder Harchowal, Chief Pharmacist at the Royal Marsden Hospital and one of the coordinators of the UK’s push for biosimilar use.