The head of NHS England has revealed new plans to find funds for innovative treatments that could shave hundreds of millions off the nation’s drugs bill.

New and pioneering treatments, such as treatments restoring patients’ sight, allowing deaf children to hear and treating Hepatitis C, would be accessible for the first time, Simon Stevens announced at the NHS Expo conference in Manchester on Tuesday (12 August).

Altogether, the new measures would save the NHS £350 million a year by 2021, including £50 million for a new Hepatitis C treatment.

The NHS is working closely with the drug industry to lower prices down and make treatments available more rapidly, Mr Stevens told delegates at the conference.

Use of biosimilars could cut costs

At the moment, six of the top 10 most expensive drugs in the UK are biological medicines, the largest cost and cost growth in the NHS medicines budget.

Using biosimilar treatments would allow doctors to give a choice of new treatments for thousands of patients suffering serious and painful illnesses, including cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, at a much cheaper price.

The use of two biosimilars, Infliximab, which treats rheumatology conditions and inflammatory bowel disease and Etarnacept, which also cures rheumatology illnesses, has already proven effective in cost savings. Combined, the two have saved the NHS around £160 million per year.

Another biosimilar, Adalimumab, which is has the same effects as Infliximab, will be released in 2018. It will offer an alternative to the current drug that represented more than £300 million in hospitals in 2015/16, the biggest spend.

The lower cost of biosimilar drugs also reduces the cost of the original drug. For example, the cost per defined daily dose for Infliximab plunged by almost two third from £16.80 to £6.84.