NHS patients still waiting for Arthritis drug

Arthritis patients on the NHS in England and Wales will have to continue to wait for access to the treatment RoActemra (tocilizumab).

Draft guidance released today by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) explains that the drug might not be cost effective because similar drugs are already on the market.

However, Nice admits that not all patients respond to the available treatments and, if it is proven effective, RoActembra could ease the suffering of those who are not responding to existing drugs.

The chief executive of Nice, Andrew Dillon, said more information is needed from manufacturer Roche in order to determine how "tocilizumab can work effectively and cost effectively".

Mr Dillon acknowledged that a "range of treatment options is important" but he added that "we need to be sure that it [RoActemra] offers real additional benefits for patients - and we need to be confident that those benefits justify the cost".

RoActemra works by reducing the inflammation of the joints in a similar way to etanercept, which is already available on the NHS.

This draft guidance will be available until January 20th 2010 when a committee will meet to take into account public opinion and issue a revised guidance form.

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