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Probe into arthritis medication guidelines launched

24 November 2008

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Health groups have successfully campaigned for a review of the restrictions placed on arthritis drugs by the UK medicines watchdog.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is to reconsider guidance which said patients could only try one type of a family of medication called a TNF-a inhibitors.

Under previous rules, a sufferer was not given the chance to try an alternative drug if the first inhibitor failed.

Groups including the National Society for Rheumatoid Arthritis appealed against the move. The charity said the advice had meant 40,000 people were left with high pain levels and long-term disability.

It also maintained that switching from one TNF-a inhibitor to a second and possibly a third was a well-established practice among doctors in the UK.

A spokesman for NICE said: “The decision of the appeal panel reinforces the fact that the appeal process is robust, independent and focused on ensuring that NICE produces guidance in a fair and reasonable way.

“This appraisal has now concluded. The Institute is seeking advice from the Department of Health as to whether a new formal referral from ministers is required, and will make the decision available once it is known.”

Copyright © Press Association 2008