National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
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"Life changing" treatment approved for people with severe asthma

Omalizumab (Xolair) is now available for NHS patients as an add-on treatment for severe, persistent allergic asthma in adults, adolescents and children, says NICE.

This follows additional analyses and the submission of a patient access scheme (PAS) by the manufacturer Novartis to the Department of Health which makes the treatment more cost effective.

In previous draft recommendations in November 2012, NICE was unable to recommend the treatment.

Omalizumab, which is administered by injection every two or four weeks, works by blocking IgE antibodies from attaching to allergens. When IgE attaches to an allergen, it sets off a process that eventually leads to an allergic reaction.

The treatment is recommended by NICE as an option for treating severe, persistent confirmed allergic immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated asthma in people aged 6 years and older as an add-on to optimised standard therapy for those people who need continuous or frequent treatment with oral corticosteroids, only if the manufacturer makes omalizumab available with the agreed patient access scheme.

Omalizumab has a UK marketing authorisation as an add-on therapy to standard care to improve control of asthma in adults and adolescents, 12 years and over, and children aged 6 to 11 years-old with severe persistent allergic asthma.

It is currently only offered to those whose asthma remains poorly controlled despite receiving optimised standard therapy. Standard therapies for asthma include high-dose inhaled corticosteroids, long-acting beta-2 agonists and, where appropriate, oral corticosteroids.

Professor Carole Longson, Health Technology Evaluation Centre Director at NICE said: NICE is pleased to recommend omalizumab, with the agreed patient access scheme submitted by the manufacturer, as an effective add-on therapy for adults, adolescents and children with severe, persistent allergic asthma, which can have a significant effect on a person's life.”

Asthma UK has described omalizumab (Xolair) as the only treatment that works for some people with severe asthma and that its benefits can be life changing. The charity says that many people have seen significant benefits of taking Xolair, including the Olympic Team GB swimmer Jo Jackson.

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