Medical Blogs

March 5, 2007

Life Enhancing Drug Denied To People With Asthma In Scotland

People living with severe asthma in Scotland look set to be denied access to a potentially life enhancing treatment today.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), which advises NHSScotland on new treatments, is expected to issue advice against Xolair on the grounds of cost.

Asthma UK Chief Executive Donna Covey said: 'Xolair has been proved to be safe and effective and to transform people's lives. For people with difficult to control asthma who can't get their symptoms under control with existing drugs, Xolair offers the possibility of living free from the fear of a severe asthma attack.

'One in ten people in Scotland with severe asthma symptoms say that once a week they have an asthma attack so severe they cannot speak. One in five is seriously concerned that the next asthma attack will kill them. This drug is the only hope that some people currently have, and to take it away from them on the grounds of cost is unjust and inhumane.

'We estimate the treatment of asthma across the UK costs the NHS about ВЈ889 million a year, to say nothing of the emotional cost to people with asthma and their families. Caring for people after an asthma attack costs the NHS 3.5 times more than caring for those whose asthma is well managed.'

Xolair was licensed for use in the UK in 2005 and is given as an 'add-on therapy' in a fortnightly injection for people with asthma that is severe, persistent and allergic. People with this type of asthma may find it so debilitating that they are unable to work or do normal things such as climbing the stairs, gardening or housework.

Maria Murray of Asirus, a support group for people with asthma in rural Scotland said: 'People living in rural areas can take hours to get to hospital following an attack and by the time the ambulance reaches them, it may be too late. We're not asking for this drug to be made available to everyone but if it can make a difference to a select group of people then surely that is worth the cost?'

While Xolair will not be available in Scotland, Asthma UK will continue to campaign for people with asthma who would benefit from Xolair. The situation in England and Wales depends on the decision of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which is due to announce its decision later this year.

1. 390,000 people in Scotland are currently receiving treatment for asthma (1 in 13) and 197,000 of these have severe asthma symptoms

2. Omalizumab (Xolair) is the first in a new generation of drugs for allergic asthma. People with severe allergic asthma often have an immune system that is overactive. Xolair helps balance the immune system by bringing down levels of the antibody immunoglobulin (IgE).

3. Asthma UK is the charity dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the 5.2million people with asthma in the UK. Asthma UK works with people with asthma, healthcare professionals and researchers to develop and share expertise to help people increase their understanding and reduce the effect of asthma on their lives.

Visit the Asthma UK website

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