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Watchdog rejects new arthritis drug

A charity has warned that thousands of people with an aggressive form of arthritis will suffer after a watchdog rejected an appeal over a new drug.

The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) said its appeal had failed over the drug abatacept (Orencia) for the treatment of moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has decided abatacept is not cost-effective and should not be recommended on the NHS.

Around 400,000 people in the UK have rheumatoid arthritis, of which 40,000 have a severe form of the disease.

Manufacturer Bristol-Myers Squibb submitted evidence to NICE showing around 3,585 patients would be eligible for treatment with abatacept.

Ailsa Bosworth, chief executive of NRAS, said: "In rejecting our appeals NICE have condemned people with severe rheumatoid arthritis to a lifetime of misery.

Andrew Dillon, chief executive of NICE, said: "In October 2007 NICE recommended adalimumab, etanercept and infliximab for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and rituximab is an option for treating severe active rheumatoid arthritis for some people.

"By recommending the use of these drugs, people in England and Wales with this condition have access to effective treatments when they need them."

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