Three biologic therapies have been provisionally approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence for NHS use in England and Wales as treatment options for ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition in which inflammation develops in the large intestine. It affects around 146,000 people in the UK.
Common symptoms include abdominal pain and bloody diarrhoea, and patients also may experience fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite and rectal bleeding.
NICE has issued a final appraisal determination covering infliximab (Remicade), adalimumab (Humira) and golimumab (Simponi).
“We know that these drugs can be life-transforming for people who live with these extremely debilitating symptoms”
They are recommended as options for moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis in adults who have responded inadequately or cannot tolerate conventional therapies – such as corticosteroids and mercaptopurine or azathioprine.
Additionally, NICE has recommended infliximab as an option for treating severely active ulcerative colitis in children and young people aged six-17 years whose disease has responded inadequately to conventional therapy.
The three drugs are biologic therapies called monoclonal antibodies that inhibit the pro-inflammatory cytokine, TNF-alpha. Two are administered by subcutaneous injection and the other by infusion.
Campaigners said the decision marked a “significant step-change” in improving access to treatment options for patients with moderately to severely active disease.
Previous NICE guidance restricted the use of biologic therapies to those hospitalised with severe ulcerative colitis. Those with moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis faced a colectomy if conventional therapies failed.
Helen Terry, director of policy at Crohn’s and Colitis UK, said: “This is fantastic news for people with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis, as it gives them much-needed additional treatment options.
“We know that these drugs can be life-transforming for people who live with these extremely debilitating symptoms, and who have had problems or no success with other treatments and may be facing surgery,” she said.
The guidance is scheduled to be rubber-stamped by NICE in January, meaning the NHS will be expected to fund the drugs within three months.