‘Life-changing’ asthma injection will be offered to patients who can’t use inhalers because there symptoms are too bad
- Around 100,000 patients with severe asthma could be eligible for the treatment
- Benralizumab has been given the green light be health spending watchdog
- The drug has fewer side effects than other treatments traditionally given
People suffering from severe asthma are to get a ‘life-changing drug’ which has been approved for routine use on the NHS.
Around 100,000 patients whose symptoms are too bad for traditional inhalers or steroids will be eligible for treatment with benralizumab after it was given the green light by health spending watchdog NICE.
Patients’ groups welcomed the decision, saying the drug – which is administered by injection – has the potential to improve the lives of those suffering from a particularly severe form of asthma.
Around 100,000 patients whose symptoms are too bad for traditional inhalers or steroids will be eligible for treatment
It has fewer side effects than other treatments given to these patients, whose symptoms tend to be among the most severe of the 5.4 million people living with all forms of the disease.
Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK, said: ‘Benralizumab is one of a group of life-changing drugs which have the power to improve the lives of thousands of people suffering from severe eosinophilic asthma.’
Sufferers of this form of the condition have more than the usual number of white blood cells in their lungs which makes breathing problems and attacks worse.
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‘This debilitating type of asthma often doesn’t respond well to regular treatments,’ Dr Walker added. ‘People are forced to take oral steroid tablets that can cause toxic side effects such as diabetes and osteoporosis.
‘Many still struggle with terrifying and potentially life-threatening asthma symptoms and need repeated trips to hospital.’
Benralizumab works by stopping the body from producing so many white blood cells in the lungs, which reduces the severity of asthmatic reactions.
a new ‘life-changing’ drug could see the end of many patients using the traditional inhaler
Patients are given the injection once every four weeks for the first three months and then once every eight weeks.
Made by AstraZeneca, the treatment, marketed under the name Fasenra, is expected to become available within six months. Two other treatments, mepolizumab and reslizumab, have also been approved by Nice. But injections for these are more frequent and campaigners believe patients should be given the choice to see which drug works best for them.
WHAT IS ASTHMA?
Asthma is a common but incurable condition which affects the small tubes inside the lungs.
It can cause them to become inflamed, or swollen, which restricts the airways and makes it harder to breathe.
The condition affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood. Symptoms may improve or even go away as children grow older, but can return in adulthood.
Symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, a tight chest and coughing, and these may get worse during an asthma attack.
Treatment usually involves medication which is inhaled to calm down the lungs.
Triggers for the condition include allergies, dust, air pollution, exercise and infections such as cold or flu.
If you think you or your child has asthma you should visit a doctor, because it can develop into more serious complications like fatigue or lung infections.
Meindert Boysen, of Nice, said: ‘People with severe eosinophilic asthma that is inadequately controlled often have a severely impaired quality of life.
‘It can hold them back from doing many basic daily tasks, lead to psychological problems including anxiety and depression, and leave them in constant fear of a potentially lethal asthma attack.
‘By keeping their asthma under better control, biological treatments have transformed the lives of some of these sufferers.’
The UK has one of the worst asthma death rates in Europe, with the rate of people dying from an attack increasing by more than 20 per cent in five years.
Rates are worse than in countries such as Greece, Italy and the Netherlands and almost 50 per cent higher than the average across the European Union.
The number of Britons who suffered a fatal attack increased by 24.6 per cent from 1,151 in 2011 to 1,434 in 2015.
Experts blame complacency among medical staff and patients, in routine care of the condition; in taking preventative measures and in dealing with attacks.
An audit of asthma fatalities led by the Royal College of Physicians in 2014 found that two thirds of deaths, including most of those involving children, might have been prevented.
Research by Asthma UK last year found that 65 per cent of people with the disease are not getting the basic care they need.
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