On the Agenda

Restricted access to arthritis drugs

Arthritis sufferer
Arthritis sufferer

In a nutshell

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has decided to restrict access to arthritis treatments as part of new guidance announced this week. NICE, the Government's drugs watchdog, will reduce the options available to rheumatoid arthritis sufferers by allowing patients to be given only one of a trio of drugs called anti-TNFs.

Why the controversy?

Charities have said it is an established practice for doctors to try different versions of the drug on patients who haven't responded successfully to the first one. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but anti-TNFs can slow and sometimes even halt the progression of the disease, while also controlling the pain it causes.

How many sufferers will be affected?

Between 20,000 and 40,000 people in England and Wales are taking an anti-TNF at any time and 50 per cent have needed to switch treatments at least once.

Who has said what?

The Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA) has branded the decision a 'prescription for pain'. The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society's chief executive Ailsa Bosworth said: 'This decision is another nail in the coffin for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. NICE is rewriting the rules, ignoring the clinical effectiveness of drugs and the views of patients and clinicians.' A NICE spokeswoman responded: 'Consultees now have an opportunity to appeal against the draft guidance.' ARMA is planning an appeal.

Media coverage?

The story has been picked up by most of the nationals, including The Daily Telegraph.

0.4m - Number of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers in UK.

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