Expectations were high when a new agreement on an adalimumab biosimilar entered into force just before Christmas. Partly because the new biosimilar would replace the world's top-selling drug; Humira. But also because Denmark has proven to be one of the best countries in the world for rapid introduction of new biosimilar drugs at hospitals.
In fact, expectations were so high that, according to Amgros, the regions could anticipate annual savings of DKK 335 million.
Reality now confirms that these savings will materialise. And even more than that. The most recent figures from Amgros show that hospitals have in fact succeeded in switching 90% of their use of Humira to new biosimilar drugs. After just three weeks.
This is an impressive result. Normally, a biosimilar drug does not achieve a market share of this size until after two to three months. In fact, we have never before seen a biosimilar switch happen so fast. Neither in Denmark, nor in any other country.
Several factors have contributed to this rapid switch. First, this is yet another example of all links of the chain working together to ensure an historically speedy switch - from suppliers over Amgros and hospital pharmacies to departments at public hospitals. The work has been driven by a task force consisting of clinical pharmacologists, representatives of the secretariat at the Danish Medicines Council and Amgros.
Again, the hospital pharmacies played a crucial role. They are now working systematically on using new and less costly medicines as soon as they become available. Instead of buying the existing, very expensive drug, they have waited for the new and cheaper biosimilar to become available. Furthermore, they have provided patients with medicine for just a short period, so that all patients could start using the biosimilar drug when it became available in mid-November 2018.
As part of the process, a biosimilar task force helped prepare information material for patients to make sure that they understood why they were switching to the new drug, and what the switch implied. We also engaged in dialogue with patient organisations to make them feel confident in having patients switch to biosimilar drugs.
Together with the task force, we also made sure that the clinical staff was well prepared to start using the new drugs. And we maintained close dialogue with suppliers to encourage them to deliver as quickly as possible.
Overall, many players have worked actively to ensure the rapid switch. The prospect of joint savings in the regions of DKK 1 million every day has no doubt been a strong motivational factor. And these efforts have paid off. Since the agreement with the new suppliers entered into force in early November 2018, the regions have saved DKK 122 million.
All players along the chain can look back at several months of hard work to ensure the speedy switch, putting pressure on everyone involved, but we can now look forward to huge savings. To be precise: DKK 350 million! In 2019 alone.
We can be proud that, together, once again, we’ve set a new international record for implementing a biosimilar switch.