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NICE recommends new treatment for severe asthma


More patients with severe asthma could get access to a procedure which makes breathing easier, under draft NICE proposals.

Bronchial thermoplasty, a hospital procedure which helps open up the airways in the lungs, has so far only been available under strict criteria due to uncertainties around safety and potential risks.

But following a consultation earlier this year, NICE has now said it is safe and effective, and suggested it should considered as a ‘standard’ option.

This would mean that GPs could refer patients whose severe asthma is not controlled by medication to a specialist, for consideration of this treatment.

NICE originally produced guidance on this procedure in 2012, which called for more evidence on long term safety, and said that it should ‘only be used with special arrangements for clinical governance, consent and audit or research’.

But NICE’s latest draft recommendations would remove this strict criteria for use.

NICE wrote: ‘Current evidence on the safety and efficacy of bronchial thermoplasty for severe asthma is adequate to support the use of this procedure provided that standard arrangements are in place for clinical governance, consent and audit.

‘The procedure should only be done by a multidisciplinary team in specialist centres with on-site access to intensive care. It should only be done by clinicians with training in the procedure and experience in managing severe asthma.’

The institute is now running a public consultation on the draft recommendations, due to finish at the end of September, after which it will release the final guidance. 

Head of policy and external affairs at Asthma UK – which has been campaigning for access to this treatment – Joe Farrington-Douglas said: ‘Until now, this treatment has only been available for specific patients at some specialist centres, but these new guidelines could mean more people with the condition could reap the benefits.’

GP respiratory experts have called for an investigation into the record number of asthma-related deaths reported last year, which they said could be due to misdiagnosis of uncontrolled asthma in older patients.