Charity vows to push for access to asthma drug, rejected by NICE

Author: Caroline White

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The charity Asthma UK has insisted it will continue to push for patient access to an asthma drug that has been given an initial thumbs down by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

NICE rejected use of dupilumab, the newest monoclonal antibody to treat severe asthma, for use on the NHS, on the grounds that it didn’t represent value for money.

Clinical trial results showed that dupilumab plus standard asthma treatment was better than placebo in reducing the use of oral corticosteroids and frequency of exacerbations in people with severe asthma with type 2 inflammation.

But the cost-effectiveness estimates were higher than is considered a reasonable use of NHS resources, said NICE.

An estimated 200,000 people in the UK have severe asthma that doesn’t respond to usual treatments. Many have to take long-term, high-dose oral steroids, the side effects of which include diabetes, cataracts, and osteoporosis. 

Monoclonal antibodies have provided a lifeline for some people with severe asthma helping to transform their health, says Asthma UK. 

But the current biologics don’t work for everyone, making it essential that more – and better – treatments are made available as soon as possible, to avoid the perpetual cycle of asthma attacks and emergency trips to hospital, it says. 

The initial rejection of dupilumab is a setback, the charity admits, but insists it will continue to push for access to drugs which can improve the lives of thousands of people with severe or difficult asthma. 

Joe Farrington-Douglas, head of policy and external affairs at Asthma UK, said the charity was disappointed by the announcement, “but [we] remain steadfast in our efforts to improve access to these life changing drugs. 

“The issue we face is that severe asthma is an unpredictable condition. Even if a patient meets the limited criteria for one of the biologic drugs currently available, they may still not respond to treatment.” 

The approval of more biologics, such as dupilumab, was crucial for people with severe asthma to enable them to manage their condition better and live healthier lives, he said. 

“We call for NICE and the drug company to get back around the table to agree access for NHS patients as soon as possible.” 

The draft guidance, which is available here, is out for consultation until 31 March 2020.  

OnMedica

Editorial team, Wilmington Healthcare

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