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The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)’s decision to recommend the use of biosimilar medicines to treat moderate rheumatoid arthritis is a ‘hugely significant milestone for patients’, said the British Biosimilars Association (BBA).

The decision will enable approximately 25,000 people struggling with moderate arthritis in the UK to gain early access to biosimilar medication that could drastically improve their quality of life.

Previously, only those suffering with severe arthritis could be prescribed the biological treatments that will now be used to treat those with milder forms of the condition too.

The association suggested that the NICE must now develop an efficient system for evaluating new biosimilar medications to help them get to market without delay, which will require support from the wider industry and government to ensure the necessary resources are in place to establish this process as quickly as possible.

The decision also sets an important precedent for the wider industry as it paves the way for biosimilar medicines to be used to treat other conditions.

It will also lower the overall cost of treatments for the NHS which will help address previously unmet medical needs and, ultimately, reduce health inequalities across the country.

Mark Samuels, CEO of the BBA, said: “Only this will have a positive impact on the quality of life of those affected by the condition, but it is also an important milestone for the entire biosimilars industry as it sets a precedent for the use of such medicines for other conditions going forward.

“This could have massive implications for the UK health system, lowering the cost of various treatments, addressing previously unmet medical needs and, ultimately, reducing health inequalities across the country.”

“The key to achieving this will be the development of a simple, streamlined process to assess the viability of new biosimilar medications and get them to market as efficiently as possible,” added Samuels.

Biosimilar medicines are developed to be similar to existing biological medicines but are available at a far lower cost to the NHS due to competition.

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