New asthma jab receives NICE backing

GPs should refer patients with severe asthma to specialist care for treatment with omalizumab (Xolair), according to latest NICE guidance.

The NICE technology appraisal recommends the use of omalizumab for the treatment of severe persistent allergic asthma in adults and adolescents over the age of 12.

It is estimated that around 6,000 patients UK-wide will be able to benefit from the drug, which is already available in Scotland.

Patients in England and Wales can expect the drug to become available within the next three months, with confirmation that the drug will be made available in Northern Ireland expected next month. 

Omalizumab, which is given as a jab twice a month, should only be initiated if the patient has confirmation of IgE mediated allergy to a perennial allergen by clinical history and allergy skin testing.

GPs should only refer patients for the treatment if they have suffered either two or more severe asthma attacks requiring hospital admission within the previous year, and a further two which required treatment or monitoring in excess of the patient’s usual regimen.

Treatment should be stopped if patients fail to show any adequate response after 16 weeks.

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