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Not so nice news for arthritis sufferers

2nd August 2007

A drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis is too expensive to be made available on the NHS, according to new guidelines issued today.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) has decided that abatacept, which is marketed under the brand name Orencia, is not cost-effective.

The drug is manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb, which told Nice that 3,585 patients in the UK would be eligible for treatment with the drug.

In a statement, the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) expressed disappointment at the news.

"Denying patients the option of abatacept leaves some of them with the unacceptable choices of being put back on to treatments they have already failed on, palliative care, or taking large doses of steroids which have extremely unacceptable side effects such as osteoporosis when given over the long term," the society said.

Nice is the body responsible for deciding which medication should be provided by the NHS.

According to NRAS, around 400,000 people in Britain suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms include stiffness and inflammation of the joints, weakness and loss of mobility.