Page last updated at 00:05 GMT, Monday, 24 November 2008

Fresh look at arthritis drugs use

An X-ray of hands affected by rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis affects people's joints

The NHS drugs advisory body is to reconsider guidance limiting use of new rheumatoid arthritis drugs.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence planned to ration patients in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to one anti-TNF drug each.

However, campaigners said it was vital for patients to be allowed to try alternative versions if the first stopped working.

Arthritis charities estimate that the drugs can benefit 40,000 people.

It is vital for people living with rheumatoid arthritis to have access to clinically proven drugs that can help to reduce the pain, fatigue and disability associated with this devastating disease
Ailsa Bosworth
National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society

Anti-TNF (anti-tumour necrosis factor alpha) therapy drugs - adalimunab, etanercept, infliximab - can slow the progress of disease and help to reduce symptoms such as joint pain, swelling, mobility and fatigue.

Each drug works and is administered in slightly different ways.

However, they are all relatively expensive, costing a minimum of around 100 a week.

NICE had said giving patients two, or even three, anti-TNFs is not cost-effective and that doctors should offer patients the next drug in line - rituximab - which costs about 3,000 less per year than the cheapest anti-TNF.

However, around a quarter of patients do not gain any benefit from rituximab.

Disability fear

Arthritis charities said that would severely limit patients' options, with many left with no effective way of managing their condition.

Many, they warned, could face high levels of pain and possibly long-term disability.

Ailsa Bosworth, of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, said: "We are delighted that NICE have listened to patients and clinicians and agreed to re-look at the evidence for the sequential use of Anti-TNF drugs.

"It is vital for people living with rheumatoid arthritis to have access to clinically proven drugs that can help to reduce the pain, fatigue and disability associated with this devastating disease.

"RA is a lifelong condition and it is likely that many people will need access to more than one Anti-TNF drug to help manage their disease."

Rachel Haynes, of the charity Arthritis Care, also welcomed the NICE review.

She said: "We hope that NICE will put the needs of people above cost and reach the right conclusion quickly.

"Not prescribing these life-transforming drugs to their full potential is like inventing the wheel but not using it because it is cheaper to walk.

"During this period of re-evaluation, primary care trusts must allow clinicians to prescribe these drugs when it is in the best interests of their patients."



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
Plan to curb arthritis drug use
21 Jul 08 |  Health
Arthritis
11 Apr 03 |  Medical notes

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific