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Children denied asthma drug

12th August 2010

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has been criticised for its "nonsensical" decision to deny children with severe asthma the drug Xolair.

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NICE said the drug Xolair (omalizumab) could not be used in the health service to treat children aged 6-11 as it had "little extra benefit compared with existing treatments".

The treatment is administered by means of an injection and is used as a way of controlling serious asthma that does not respond to standard medication.

NICE has already approved the drug for use to treat children aged over 12 and for adults.

The charity Asthma UK were critical of NICE's decision and said children who were given the drug in UK trials had shown a significant upturn.

Dr Mike Thomas, the charity's chief medial adviser, said hundreds of children with serious asthma would now not be able to access a "pioneering treatment" that could help them in their daily lives.

John O Warner, professor of Paediatrics at Imperial College London, said: "It is nonsensical that Xolair will be available to children aged 6 to 11 in Scotland but not in England. It is also nonsensical that it can be administered on the NHS to a child of 12 but not to one of 11."

Dr Gillian Leng, NICE's deputy chief executive, said: "We are unable to recommend that NHS funds be diverted to a treatment with such high costs which only provides very limited benefits for patients."

 

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