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NHS block for arthritis drug?

2nd August 2007

The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) has criticised new plans to prevent NHS funding of the arthritis drug, Orencia.

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The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance saying that Orencia is not a "cost-effective option" for the health service.

Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by the immune system attacking places where bones connect, such as the knees or wrists. NRAS believes that approximately 40,000 people in the UK suffer from the condition, which can be painful and debilitating.

Drugs normally prescribed for the treatment of the condition are known as anti-TNFs. About 30% of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers do not respond to anti-TNF treatment.

NRAS said treatment using Orencia might help 12,000 people with the condition in the UK.

Ailsa Bosworth, chief executive of NRAS, said people who did not respond to conventional treatment should be able to try Orencia. She suggested that when Orencia did not work patients could cease treatment quickly, in order to keep costs down.

She said: "We simply cannot accept that individuals should be denied the chance of at least regaining some quality of life and condemning them to a life of pain and disability, which could be equally as expensive to the NHS."

Bristol-Myers Squibb, the manufacturers of Orencia, said they estimated around 3,500 people could be helped by the drug.

The final NICE guidance on Orencia is due to be released at the end of 2007.

 


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