Severe asthma 'wonder drug' gets NICE's recommendation for approval

People with severe allergic asthma have been given real hope of a life free from debilitating breathlessness as the National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence (NICE) issues draft guidance recommending the approval of the drug Omalizumab (Xolair) for use in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

People with severe allergic asthma have been given real hope of a life free from debilitating breathlessness as the National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence (NICE) issues draft guidance recommending the approval of the drug Omalizumab (Xolair) for use in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Omalizumab 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.

For some people with this type of asthma, the existing drugs that are available to treat the condition just don't work. Their asthma symptoms - breathlessness, coughing, wheezing and tightness in the chest - can also be so debilitating that they are unable to work or do normal things such as climbing the stairs, gardening or housework.

Jenny Versnel, Executive Director of Research & Policy at Asthma UK, says: 'The decision to recommend Omalizumab (Xolair) will offer new hope to people with severe allergic asthma, who experience the highest use of emergency services and live in constant fear of a fatal asthma attack.

'Access to the drug can mean the difference between a life worth living and one that involves a daily struggle for breath, so this news is true cause for celebration.

'We urge NICE to give final approval of Omalizumab as soon as possible in order that people with severe allergic asthma can begin to receive this treatment.'

Asthma UK is also urgently calling on the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) to follow NICE's lead and approve the drug for use in Scotland. The SMC has rejected the drug twice previously for use in Scotland, on health economic grounds.

Jenny continues: 'This life enhancing drug must not be denied to people with asthma in Scotland when it becomes available elsewhere in the UK. We call on the SMC to approve Omalizumab for use in Scotland at the earliest possible opportunity to prevent a "postcode lottery" in asthma treatment for those people who live with debilitating asthma symptoms.'

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