Around 25,000 rheumatoid arthritis patients to benefit as new treatments approved

Around 25,000 rheumatoid arthritis patients are to benefit from new drugs which have been approved for use on the NHS, health officials have said.

The National Institute for health and Care Excellence (Nice) has approved several new drugs for people with a moderate form of the disease who have not responded to conventional therapies.

New draft guidance from Nice recommends adalimumab, etanercept and infliximab, taken with methotrexate for use in the NHS.

Patients will be able to use adalimumab and etanercept in certain circumstances, Nice added.

Some of these drugs have previously only been recommended for severe rheumatoid arthritis.

But now more similar drugs have come on the market, the therapies are cheaper, which means it is cost effective for the NHS to offer treatment to those with moderate disease, as well as those with severe disease.

The new treatments have only been recommended for use when intensive therapy with two or more disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs have not controlled the illness.

During the Nice review, one drug – abatacept with methotrexate – was not considered a cost-effective treatment for moderate disease.

Meindert Boysen, deputy chief executive and director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation at Nice, said: “I am delighted that we are able to recommend additional treatment options for people with moderate rheumatoid arthritis whose disease hasn’t responded to conventional treatments.

“These recommendations come after a pragmatic review of existing guidance in response to the availability of biosimilars in the NHS.

“We are pleased that the introduction of biosimilars has lowered overall costs of treatment, allowing our independent committee to recommend biological treatment for more people with rheumatoid arthritis so they can enjoy a better quality of life.”

Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints.

The condition usually affects the hands, feet and wrists.

Around 400,000 people in the UK are thought to be affected.

The new recommendations will benefit around 25,000 people, Nice said.

Dr Natalie Carter, head of research engagement at Versus Arthritis, said: “We are proud of our involvement in the development of biological therapies, which have revolutionised the treatment of inflammatory arthritis and improved the lives of millions of people.

“However there are still thousands of people affected by moderately active rheumatoid arthritis who do not respond to first-line therapies and are left with few treatment options.

“This change to the Nice guidelines is an incredibly positive step forward, as it will enable thousands more people to benefit from these treatments.”

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