Arthritis medicine guidance to be reviewedCharity welcomes health watchdog move

12 June 2007

Arthritis campaigners were celebrating today after the health watchdog agreed to review its NHS guidance on three drugs.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has partially upheld an appeal over the use of the rheumatoid arthritis medicines, adalimumab (Humira), etanercept (Enbrel), and infliximab (Remicade).

Last November, it said patients who did not react to one of the drugs should not get the chance to try another one.

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

Further review

The drugs, from a group known as anti-TNF (anti-tumour necrosis factor alpha) medicines, will now undergo a further review on their NHS use.

Arthritis Care said the original decision had meant ‘pain, disability and poverty’ for many sufferers.

Chief Executive, Neil Betteridge, 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.’

Anti-TNF treatment

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.

‘The appeal was therefore partially upheld on this point. As a result of the appeal panel decision, the appraisal will be returned to the committee for reconsideration.’

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