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NICE refuses to back down over arthritis drug ruling

26 October 2007

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A drug that could have helped thousands of people suffering from moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis will definitely not be available on the NHS, it has emerged.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has refused to reconsider its recommendation back in August not to approve Orencia (abatacept).

Manufacturer Bristol-Myers Squibb submitted evidence showing that 3,585 patients in the UK would be eligible for the drug.

Patients need 13 doses per year, which would have cost the NHS £718.20 each, adding up to £9,336.60 per annum.

The NICE Evidence Review Group report into the drug said: “The company makes a convincing case, citing strong evidence from a high-quality trial, of the clinical benefit of abatacept.

“The evidence is particularly convincing given that this specific population is difficult to treat and has severe disabling disease with marked impairment of quality of life.”

But Arthritis Care spokeswoman Jane Spence said: “This decision will dash the hopes of thousands.

“Abatacept was a bright, new hope for them, and to put it beyond their reach will seem catastrophic.

“Instead of funding abatacept, now the taxpayer will foot the bill for expensive orthopaedic and palliative care for people who might do well on the drug, if allowed it. Many may end up on disability or incapacity benefits as well.”

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