Biosimilars: a great opportunity for pharmacists in England

by Jonathan Campbell, RPS Regional Liaison Pharmacist

Biosimilars have huge benefits for patients and the NHS and offer opportunities for pharmacists too.

The NHS Long Term Plan sets out how “the NHS will move to a new service model in which patients get more options, better support, and properly joined-up care at the right time in the optimal care setting”.

These new models of integrated care will need organisations and their staff to work together across the traditional boundaries of community, general practice and hospital – adopting a system leadership approach to improving population health that puts the patient at its heart.

The NHS Contract

The recent introduction of a national NHS contract to provide patients with a range of biosimilar products to the originator Humira® presents pharmacists with an ideal opportunity to embrace a collaborative approach to support patients using this medication.

Adalimumab is the medicine on which hospitals in England have spent the most, at more than £400 million a year. Over 46,000 patients are prescribed the drug in England, which until October 2018 was only available under the brand name Humira®. It’s used for serious conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis and uveitis.

After the exclusive patent on the drug expired in October, prescribers are now being asked to also prescribe equally effective, safe, ‘biosimilar’ versions of adalimumab. A national NHS contract has commenced which provides a range of biosimilar products in addition to the originator Humira®; which are Imraldi®, Amgevita®, Hyrimoz® and Hulio®. These are injections which are available as pens and prefilled syringes.

NHS Guidance

NHS England has issued guidance to Trusts and CCGs advising that 9 out of 10 new patients should be started on the best value medicine within three months of a biosimilar launch, with at least 80% of existing patients being switched to the best value biologic (which could be the originator or a biosimilar) within 12 months.

Shared Decisions

Biosimilars give patients greater access to life-changing medicines which have the same clinical effect and safety profile.  NHS England’s biosimilar commissioning framework, states “shared decision making between clinical prescribers and patients will be vital if the best value, clinically effective medicines are to be used”.

Ensuring patients have clear information in a timely manner is essential to delivering these changes successfully and whilst many pharmacists will not be directly involved in the supply function of biosimilars, we still have a critical role in supporting and offering advice to patients on these medications.

Primary care pharmacists should liaise with chief pharmacists and specialist clinical pharmacists in their local acute trusts regarding local arrangements.

As one profession

As one profession, we can focus on working collaboratively to support patients with their medicines. As one profession, we have the ability to break down the barriers between our own traditional silos. As one profession, we have the opportunity to integrate medicines optimisation around our patients rather than our organisations – and the opportunity is now.


The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has published a Quick Reference Guide on biosimilars and a webinar you can watch.

The Specialist Pharmacy Service has briefings on adalimumab for professionals and information resources for patients which you can use with them.

If you have further questions about biosimilars, please get in touch with RPS Professional Support Team on 0845 257 2570 or email




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