UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence Announces Preference for Biosimilars

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (“NICE”) released guidance today establishing a preference for lower-cost biosimilars for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

NICE is an agency that provides cost-effectiveness and other guidance to the National Health Service (“NHS”) and other British public health services.  The guidance document released today provides recommendations for the care of rheumatoid arthritis based on, among other things, clinical and cost-effectiveness data for the biologic drugs adalimumab, etanercept, infliximab, certolizumab pegol, golimumab, tocilizumab, and abatacept.  NICE also took into account two infliximab biosimilar products, both of which are available in NHS.

Noting that “biosimilar products should not be considered interchangeable with the originator products,” NICE nevertheless recommends that treatment should be “start[ed] . . . with the least expensive drug (taking into account administration costs, dose needed and product price per dose).”  This guidance, if heeded by doctors and formularies, could eventually drive increases in market share for biosimilars over branded biologics in the UK for the rheumatoid arthritis indication.