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NHS doctors in England and Wales will be able to prescribe MabThera (rituximab) to arthritis patients thanks to a ruling by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
The organisation said that the drug is a cost-effective treatment for patients who are severely affected by the disease.
It costs £4,657 to treat one patient for a year, which makes the drug almost half as expensive as other therapies.
AntiTNF (tumour necrosis factor) drugs, which are currently the most advanced course of treatment for severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA), cost around £9,000 per patient per year.
MabThera, which is manufactured by Roche, is a synthetic antibody that selectively targets one of the key immune system cells involved in RA.
The drug will be available to NHS patients who fail to improve after first being given an antiTNF drug, and will be prescribed in addition to another drug, methotrexate.
NICE also approved a second drug, adalimumab, as a treatment option for psoriatic arthritis.
NICE spokesman Andrew Dillon said: “Following further clarification from the manufacturer on the economic analysis of rituximab, the committee has assessed that these drugs represent the right approach for the NHS to take in the treatment of two severe forms of arthritis.”
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