Plan to ban drug that would help thousands with incurable immune system disease put on hold
- The NHS rationing body said Benlysta was too expensive at £9,000 a year despite there being no alternative treatments for lupus.
- But an appeal has ruled that a ban on the drug is put on hold
A plan to ban a new drug that would help thousands of women with an incurable immune system disease has been put on hold.
The NHS rationing body said Benlysta was too expensive at £9,000 a year despite there being no alternative treatments for lupus.
But patient groups, doctors and drug makers GlaxoSmithKline won an appeal against the decision not to fund the drug on the NHS.
The National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) will now reconsider banning the drug, which is available in the US, Germany and Spain.
Around 25,000 Britons, mostly women, suffer from lupus, in which the body turns on itself by producing antibodies that attack tissue and organs, causing pain, fatigue and potentially life-threatening damage.
Benlysta is the first treatment specifically developed to treat the disease for half a century and trials show it improves patients’ health and wellbeing.
At present patients are given cheap, off-patent steroids to reduce inflammation and occasionally an anti-cancer drug that has no proven efficacy.
An estimated 5,000 patients a year whose disease cannot be controlled would be eligible to receive the new drug, given monthly by infusion.
But in April NICE, which covers England and Wales, and its Scottish equivalent the SMC said Benlysta, also known as belimumab, was not cost-effective.