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A £2,000 monthly asthma jab will be a “beacon of hope” for about 100,000 people in the UK with a severe form of the disease, campaigners have said.
The drug, called benralizumab, was approved yesterday in draft guidance by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) for those who cannot be helped by traditional inhalers or steroids.
Its list price is £1,955 per 30mg pre-filled syringe, although AstraZeneca, the manufacturers, have agreed a confidential discounted price for the NHS.
Kay Boycott, the chief executive of Asthma UK, said: “This new drug benralizumab offers a beacon of hope to thousands of people in the UK who have an acute form of asthma called severe eosinophilic asthma.
“This debilitating form of asthma is resistant to regular treatments such as inhalers and steroids, meaning many people are left dealing with terrifying asthma symptoms such as gasping for breath, or repeated trips to A&E.
“This drug has the potential to transform the quality of lives of many. NHS England now must ensure this treatment becomes readily available to those who need it.”
There are about 5.4 million people with asthma in the UK. Around 200,000 of them have severe asthma, and about half of those have severe eosinophilic asthma, a type caused by the inflammation of the airways linked to a particular type of white blood cell.
Benralizumab is given as an injection every four weeks for the first three doses, and then every eight weeks. Nice have set certain clinical criteria for patients to get access, which the company is pushing to extend.
Nichola Duane, 41, from Whalley, Lancashire, was diagnosed with severe eosinophilic asthma ten years ago. Most days she has to use a nebuliser every four to six hours, and every two hours at night. She has developed steroid-induced diabetes.
She said: “I had to give up a job I loved as a nursery teacher because my severe asthma is so bad. Most days I need to use my nebulisers every few hours, and my Dad has had to cut back on his shifts at work to care for me. We have to make a 150-mile round trip every two weeks to receive treatment at a specialist centre.
“New treatments such as benralizumab could mean that I could regain my independence and get back into work, giving me a much better quality of life.”
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