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Disparities in access to arthritis drugs

GPs' patients with rheumatoid arthritis face a nationwide

lottery in access to drug

treatment, a major new audit reveals.

The British Society for Rheumatology survey uncovered wide disparities in access to anti-TNFa therapies despite approval by NICE as far back

as 2002.

In a survey of 252 consultants, 46 per cent said they were limited in their ability to prescribe the drugs.

Some 70 per cent of these cited funding shortages and caps on the numbers of patients who could be treated.

Study leader Dr Lesley Kay, a member of the management committee of the BSR's Biologics Register, was deeply concerned by the findings.

Dr Kay said: 'The BSRBR urges the Government and PCTs to put and end to this patently unfair situation, which is in

direct contravention of Government policy.'

She added: 'It's unfair on

patients with these devastating, painful and unglamorous conditions to be forced to take

a low priority and be deprived of this very successful treatment.'

The study also found only two-thirds of consultants had access to anti-TNFa therapy

for psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

It is published in the journal Rheumatology this week.

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