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PCTs doubtful over arthritis drug after 'thumbs down' from NICE

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Doubts have been raised over whether the ‘smart’ drug Tocilizumab, which treats rheumatoid arthritis, will be made available on the NHS.

Trials have shown that the drug can significantly improve the lives of patients who can no longer benefit from other therapies, but at a cost of £9,300 per patient per year, the drug may be too expensive for the NHS.

The decision to pay for the drug rests with the regional PCTs, but as NICE has given a preliminary “thumbs down” rating, they are unlikely to choose to fund it.

The decision has been described as “extremely bad news” by the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, which supports sufferers of the disease, however final guidance will not be produced by NICE until next year.

A possible outcome might be that the drug’s manufacturer, pharmaceutical giants Roche, strikes a deal to share the cost burden with the NHS.

Tocilizumab works by targetting a key signalling molecule that underpins many inflammatory processes.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Medicines Consortium is expected to issue separate guidance for Tocilizumab north of the border.

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