Pharmac widens access to adalimumab through transition to biosimilar

Media release Medicines

Pharmac’s chief medical officer Dr David Hughes has today announced the decision to fund a biosimilar adalimumab (Amgevita), improving access to adalimumab for more than 700 New Zealanders.

What is a biosimilar?

Adalimumab is used to treat a range of rheumatology, gastrointestinal, dermatological, and other autoimmune conditions. Around 6,400 kiwis have this injection, often fortnightly.

Humira is the current brand of adalimumab, listed since 2006. Of all the medicines funded in New Zealand, Humira is the second biggest spend for the Pharmac budget.

Amgevita, supplied by Amgen, is a biosimilar to Humira, supplied by Abbvie. Amgevita is being used in 40 countries and has been approved by Medsafe as a safe and effective medicine. 

Dr Hughes says Amgevita is as safe and effective in reducing inflammation as Humira.

“We expect most patients who use adalimumab will be able to change to Amgevita. We are, however, funding Amgevita under Principal Supply status. This means people who need to stay on, or return to, Humira can do so.

More about Principal Supply Status

More people will be able to access Amgevita once it is funded, and existing patients also able to access higher doses of treatment if they move to Amgevita.

“Amgevita is citrate-free version of adalimumab. This means that some people using this medicine may find it less painful to use.”

Moving from Humira to Amgevita will free up a significant amount of our fixed budget which is being used to fund other medicines.

“This is the Pharmac model in action. Competing markets, forecasting and moving to a biosimilar medicine stretches New Zealand’s medicine budget further and means we can fund more medicines for more Kiwis.”

Amgevita will be available from 1 March 2022.