Green light for first new treatment in almost 60 years for inflammatory disease

Health officials are set to give the green light to a new treatment for a condition which has not seen any advances in almost six decades.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is to issue guidance recommending tocilizumab for patients with giant cell arteritis (GCA) for use in the NHS in England.

Pharmaceutical giant Roche said that until now there has not been any new treatment options for nearly 60 years.

Giant cell arteritis, also known as temporal arteritis, causes inflammation in the walls of the arteries in the head and neck, and less commonly the aorta.

Patients can suffer symptoms including headache, jaw pain, fatigue and muscle and joint pains. More serious complications include vision loss, stroke, aortic aneurysm and heart attack.

They are usually treated with a type of steroids but large doses can be coupled with other adverse affects.

Around 15,000 people in the UK develop GCA each year.

Tocilizumab, also known as RoActemra, is also used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

The drug, given as an injection, works by blocking a protein called IL-6 – the protein is involved in the body’s management of inflammation and infections.

GCA is associated with abnormally high levels of IL-6.

Richard Erwin, general manager for Roche Products Limited (UK) said: “This positive guidance for tocilizumab is a positive outcome for GCA patients who haven’t had any new treatment options for nearly 60 years for their life-threatening disease.

“The passion and commitment of the GCA community was the driving force that helped bring about this positive result and we are pleased to see a flexible and pragmatic approach from NICE and NHS England.”

GCA patient, Carol Howell (pictured), 67, from Bournemouth, added: “Living with GCA is a constant balance of steroid levels and debilitating muscle pains and stiffness.

“When it flares up I have to stop many of the activities that I really enjoy like Pilates, gardening as just getting through each day is an effort. Tocilizumab offers me a wonderful freedom from pain and steroids.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Carol Howell / PA Wire.