NHS makes drug for severe asthma available

Xolair - web A new biopharmaceutical drug for severe allergic asthma (SAA) is available on the NHS for eligible patients aged six and older.

The mandatory NHS funding for provision of Xolair (omalizumab), an injectable drug from Novartis, follows NICE final approval in April.

NICE described the drug as a “life-changing” option and recommended it in addition to standard therapy (oral corticosteroids) for persistent SAA.

Over 14,000 people in the UK suffer from SAA, which carries a high mortality risk and leads to frequent hospitalisations.

Xolair has been shown to reduce acute asthma episodes by 54% and reduce hospital admissions by 61% after one year of treatment, and the benefits are confirmed by long-term studies.

Omalizumab is a humanised antibody that, unlike corticosteroids, targets the underlying causes of SAA.

The NICE guidance recommends the use of Xolair in people with persistent SAA, aged six years and older, who have taken four or more oral corticosteroid courses in the previous year.

The NHS is now obliged to provide funding and resources for this treatment in eligible patients.

“Many patients unnecessarily accept the everyday limitations and sudden asthma attacks which are a feature of SAA. This means that they are unable to carry out simple everyday tasks such as shopping or working,” said Dr Robert Niven, Senior Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine, University Hospital of South Manchester.

“There is a lack of knowledge about SAA and I would urge anyone who has been on numerous courses of oral steroids for treating their asthma be seen by their doctor for an assessment.”