Arthritis patients are likely to be able to get access to a new drug from the NHS in England and Wales after medical experts reversed their decision over whether it should be used.
Tocilizumab, which is manufactured by Roche, was deemed to be too expensive just three months ago.
But the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) reversed its decision following new data from Roche.
The watchdog body said the drug can now be used as a “last resort” treatment for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Tocilizumab, which is marketed as RoActemra, is already available through the NHS in Scotland.
The drug, costing £10,000 per patient per year, works by targeting the immune system.
It can help reduce inflammation of the joints caused by rheumatoid arthritis and prevent long-term damage.
The NICE guidance recommends offering tocilizumab to patients with moderate to severe symptoms who have failed to respond to other treatments.
At this stage, the decision is still subject to appeal. Final guidance will be issued at a later date.
Neil Betteridge, chief executive of the charity Arthritis Care, described the move as an “important breakthrough”.
Copyright Press Association 2010