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Independents' Day

NICE arthritis ruling 'will dash the hopes of thousands'

By Lilian Anekwe

NICE's decision not to approve the funding of abatacept will ‘dash the hopes of thousands of patients' with severe rheumatoid arthritis, it was claimed today.

Its Final Appraisal Determination recommends that abatacept is not cost effective for the NHS, and so should be refused as a first-line treatment of severe RA.

But the Institute did concede that a small number of people who are currently receiving it may continue until they and their clinicians consider it appropriate to stop.

The decision comes merely weeks after GPs and patients submitted a 20,000 signature petition to Downing Street, to protest against NICE's proposals to limit the drug alendronate as the only first line treatment for osteoporosis – even though it is unsuitable for 1 in 4 women.

A spokesperson for Arthritis Care described the ruling as a ‘huge blow'.

‘This decision will dash the hopes of thousands. The fact that the new-generation drug rituximab was approved recently doesn't mean that all people failed by anti-TNFs will be suitable for it.

‘Abatacept was a bright, new hope for them, and to put it beyond their reach will seem catastrophic.

'This harsh ruling means there's no place left to go if you've been failed by rituximab, or the anti-TNF treatments. Whilst NICE is obliged to make its decisions on NHS cost-effectiveness, the narrow focus merely robs Peter to pay Paul.

‘Instead of funding abatacept, now the taxpayer will foot the bill for expensive orthopaedic and palliative care for people who might do well on the drug, if allowed it. Many may end up on disability or incapacity benefits as well.'

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