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Move to limit drug access slammed

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has been condemned for recommending that drugs used to treat a painful rheumatic disease should be restricted on the NHS.

The National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS) described the decision as "devastating", and said it will condemn those who suffer from ankylosing spondylitis (AS) to a "lifetime of pain and disability".

The group reacted angrily to the news that NICE has decided that infliximab should not be used to treat the condition, while it also ruled that patients should not be allowed to switch between two drugs, adalimumab and etanercept, which have already been approved.

And it said that it may consider launching an appeal against NICE's decision.

Director of NASS, Jane Skerrett, said: "NICE's decision is devastating news for people living with severe ankylosing spondylitis.

"Essentially they are limiting people with AS to just one out of three potentially life changing treatments by refusing to approve one treatment and preventing people from switching to another treatment.

"The three drugs under review from NICE are the only real treatment options for people with severe AS.

"NICE is condemning people who fail on just one of these advanced therapies to a lifetime of pain and disability."

The National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society

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"Once again, the reporting leaves much to be desired.  If a government body denied drugs to people in Scotland, but dished them out to the Englihs for free, nursing and trades union bodies would be screaming for boycotts and strike action. Why must those in England tolerate this treatment? Why are our lives so cheap?" - Name and address supplied

"Director of NASS, Jane Skerrett, should have said: "NICE's decision is devastating news for people living with severe ankylosing spondylitis in England. When are you people going to spell out to people in England that it is them being singled out by this government?" - Name and address supplied