A new “smart” drug that can be used to target the pain of rheumatoid arthritis has been launched, but may be too expensive to be used by the NHS.
The drug, tocilizumab, targets a signalling molecule that underpins inflammatory pain, and can be used on patients who cannot use other pain relieving therapies.
But with the cost of treating one patient for 12 months standing at £9,300, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has judged it to be not cost-effective for NHS use.
Without NICE approval, primary care trusts are thought to be unlikely to use tocilizumab.
The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS), a charity supporting sufferers of the disease, described the decision as “extremely bad news”.
NICE is due to produce its final guidance early next year, with a possible outcome being that the drug’s manufacturer Roche will share the costs with the NHS.
The Scottish Medicines Consortium is expected to issue separate guidance for tocilizumab.
Copyright Press Association 2009