Biosimilars still to make an impact in the UK.
By Tijana Ignjatovic, Lead Analyst
10 July 2013
I am a Lead Analyst for market access and strategy at Datamonitor Healthcare. My team covers a diverse range of topics r...
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Given that the UK market shows high generic penetration, it might be expected to be just as attractive for biosimilar manufacturers. However, the biosimilars market remains small in the UK with the uptake of biosimilars showing large variations by product class, and overall uptake remaining low. At a level of around 30% uptake in the UK is not far away from countries such as France and Italy, but significantly below Germany at around 50% volume uptake.
The Barriers to Uptake
Factors hindering faster uptake include physician uncertainty about prescribing biosimilars, coupled with the lack of nationwide policies on the part of healthcare payers to boost use, especially in the retail setting. Moreover, pharmacist substitution of a biosimilar for an originator biologic is not allowed in the UK, or anywhere in Europe for that matter, and in general biosimilars tend to be prescribed for newly diagnosed patients rather than switching patients from their existing treatment.
Nonetheless, biosimilar filgrastim has exhibited a strong performance, recording uptake in excess of 80%. Indeed, in January 2013 it had a 90% volume share of the total UK filgrastim market, and according to the British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA), the availability of biosimilar versions has boosted the overall granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) market, with a 40% increase in overall daily volume usage of G-CSF since biosimilars were launched. Reasons for the high uptake include low safety concerns associated with this product class as well as adequate procurement and prescribing mechanisms that favor biosimilar use, demonstrating that when appropriate payer support is in place growth opportunity exists in the UK.
Biosimilar somatropin has fared much less well in terms of uptake in the UK, mainly because of concerns over using it in children, the existence of several well-known branded products in various formulations and delivery devices, and the fact that it takes a long time to see the benefits of growth hormone. It should be noted, however, that these concerns hold true in other EU countries too, which have also seen low uptake. Uptake of epoetin biosimilars in the UK has been moderate.
Despite positive results with biosimilar filgrastim, the biosimilars market is not expected to grow at a fast rate in the UK, which is the same situation as in most other countries, due to the limited number of biosimilars approved for marketing so far. For example, biosimilar interferons and insulins are yet to reach the market in the EU due to significant competition from a range of brands and resulting low commercial interest and unsuccessful applications. Therefore, in the UK, unlike their generic counterparts in the small-molecule market, biosimilars are expected to account for a very small proportion of the medicines bill, at least for the foreseeable future.
However, going forward, as more biologics expire such as the monoclonal antibody-based products starting with Remicade (infliximab; Janssen Biotech/Johnson & Johnson/Merck & Co/Mitsubishi Tanabe), Datamonitor Healthcare expects the use of biosimilars to grow.