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Biosimilars and their UK penetration

There is high generic penetration in the UK market and this situation might be just as favourable for biosimilar manufacturers. Currently, the biosimilars market is relatively small in the UK and there is large variation in the uptake of biosimilars depending on product class with the overall uptake being rather low. Although the UK’s level of uptake is roughly on a par with Italy and France at 30%, Germany has taken the lead in Europe with 50% uptake.

There are a number of barriers to uptake in the UK such as the fact that physicians generally are unconfident about prescribing biosimilars. In addition, there are insufficient healthcare policies for boosting the use of biosimilars, especially regarding retail, while biolsimilars are currently banned from being substituted for originator biologics in Europe. At the current time the main role of biosimilars is limited to being a medical solution for newly diagnosed patients.

However, biosimilars show a lot of promise, and biosimilar filgrastim in particular has displayed an impressive uptake of more than 80%. In the first month of 2013 alone biosimilar filgrastim held a 90% share of the total filgrastim market in the UK and the British Generic Manufacturers Association have released findings that demonstrate that various versions of biosimilars have boosted the granulocyte colony-stimulating factor market by around 40%.

There are a number of reasons for the demonstrated high uptake of biosimilars such as certain prescribing mechanisms that favour the use of biosimilars, only minor safety concerns over the product class of biosimilars and their general availability. It has been demonstrated that with adequate support of biosimilars in the UK dramatic growth is possible.

Not all types of biosimilars have fared as well as biosimilar filgrastim, however. Biosimilar somatropin has faced a number of hurdles as there have been concerns that it may be overused in children. In addition, results related to the benefits of growth hormone take some time to realise and several similar products are already widely used in the UK.

Although biosimilar filgrastim has produced positive results, it is expected that UK penetration of biosimilars will be rather slow due to the difficulties that have been met in obtaining approval for them. This situation is also shared by most other countries and at the current time biosimilars are expected to comprise only a limited part of the medicines bill. However, the uptake of biosimilars is expected to grow as biologics such as Remicade expire.


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