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Biosimilar Medicines

Volume 609: debated on Tuesday 10 May 2016

The biosimilars—the generic versions of biologic products—represent part of the extraordinary range of new drugs that are becoming available for the benefit of our patients. The Government are committed to ensuring access to drugs for UK patients at the highest level of quality and safety, and to ensuring that effective biosimilar medicines are available. That is why we are leading, not just here but in Europe, the regulatory regime through the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency as the lead assessor and rapporteur. In the NHS, the chief pharmaceutical officer, Keith Ridge, and the commercial medicines unit in my directorate have put together a framework agreement for biosimilars, and through the medicines optimisation programme we are looking specifically at biosimilars, and we have set up a national biosimilars medicines group.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. May I ask also that where NHS pharmacists are involved in oncology clinics, there is a higher prescribing of biosimilars? What steps are in place to encourage more oncology clinics to involve NHS pharmacists at the start of the patient’s treatment journey?

Not surprisingly, my hon. and, in this field, learned Friend makes a very important point. We have set up a number of initiatives to that very end: to make sure that our pharmacologists and pharmacists in the system are alert and have all the information they need to increase the prescription of biologics and the generic versions, biosimilars. I will happily write to her, describing a range of initiatives that are in place which we are pursuing to that end.

One of the issues around the adoption of biosimilars and, indeed, driving down the NHS drugs budget generally is the lack of local analysis of patterns of prescribing against efficacy and cost. I wonder whether the Minister would consider encouraging clinical commissioning groups to appoint analytical pharmacists, who could look at this equation and recommend different prescribing decisions on a local basis.

My hon. Friend makes a really interesting point. It goes to the heart of the work that we are doing at the moment with CCGs, in terms of use of data to map and track prescribing practice across the system. I will happily pick up the point about ensuring that biosimilars are incorporated in that.