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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 June 2007, 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK
NHS to review arthritis drugs use
Rheumatoid arthritis affects 400,000 people in the UK
The NHS treatment watchdog has agreed to review its guidance on the use of three drugs for rheumatoid arthritis.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) will look again at Humira, Enbrel and Remicade.

Last year it ruled if a patient did not respond to one of the drugs - from a class known as anti-TNF medicines - they should not get another.

But various charities, manufacturers and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) appealed against that decision.

Obviously patients want to try the other two if the first does not work for them
Neil Betteridge
Arthritis Care

The drugs will now undergo a further review of their NHS use.

The charity Arthritis Care said the original decision had meant "pain, disability and poverty" for many sufferers.

Neil Betteridge, the chief executive, said: "People eligible to receive anti-TNF treatment are, by definition, people with severe rheumatoid arthritis - a disease which, if left untreated, leads to serious disability, often at a young age.

"If not properly treated, those with the most severe form die on average within five years.

"It is fantastic that people may now get a second bite of the cherry.

"There are three drugs of this type, and obviously patients want to try the other two if the first does not work for them.

"The alternative is often a life on incapacity benefit, with no opportunity to live fully and productively."

Drugs work differently

Mr Betteridge said the three anti-TNF drugs had a different make-up, and each was administered in a different way.

"We argued that there is enough evidence to show that people often benefit from one anti-TNF having failed on another - quite enough evidence to justify the expense of permitting sequential use."

Around 400,000 people in the UK have rheumatoid arthritis, of which about 4,000 have severe rheumatoid arthritis.

A spokeswoman for NICE said: "Whilst the individual appeals were dismissed, the appeal panel decided that the appraisal committee needed to take another look at the use of a second anti-TNF treatment where there had been no response to a first anti-TNF treatment."


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