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NICE approves Novartis asthma jab

Published on 30/11/07 at 01:15pm

NICE has recommended Novartis' injection Xolair for asthma patients whose condition cannot be controlled by conventional first-line treatments.

Patients with persistent allergic asthma over the age of twelve must meet a strict criterion from NICE to receive the jab, which is administered every two to four weeks.

Xolair (omalizumab) works by blocking immunoglobulin E (IgE), a substance produced naturally in the body. When asthma patients inhale allergens from the air, their body works over-time producing too much IgE, which is what leads to their symptoms and attacks.

NICE recommended Xolair as an add-on therapy to standard medication for patients that have confirmed IgE mediated allergy. They must also have been admitted to hospital in the previous year or suffered three or more exacerbations in their condition that resulted in admittance to hospital and continued monitoring.

Patients on the drug should be monitored and treatment discontinued at 16 weeks if they do no show adequate improvement, which will be measured by a full clinical assessment.

Patient group Asthma UK says half of the 5.2 million asthma patients in the UK have severe symptoms, and 500,000 of those experiencing severe symptoms do so because treatments currently available do not effectively manage their asthma.

The organisation said it is delighted with the new guidance for Xolair, which will go to help this group of sufferers. It is estimated 6,000 people in UK will now gain access to the drug.

Asthma UK also said the approval will mean a reduction in the cost of asthma treatment to the NHS. Currently 80% of the money spent on treating the condition goes on the 20% of people with the most severe asthma symptoms.

It is thought Xolair will reduce that cost through a cut in hospital admissions, and make it easier for people with asthma to manage their condition more effectively.

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