Scotland accepts new asthma drug England can’t agree on

In response to the Scottish Medicines Consortium’s announcement that it has approved the drug mepolizumab (Nucala) for routine use by the NHS in Scotland: 

The SMC (Scottish Medicines Consortium) has announced it has approved the drug mepolizumab (Nucala) for routine use by the NHS in Scotland. This decision is welcomed by Asthma UK but has sparked significant concern as the drug has not been approved for use in England.

Asthma UK – by talking to those living with severe asthma and the doctors and nurses who look after them - has played a key role in highlighting the unmet need for people with severe asthma who until now, haven’t had access to this treatment which has helped the Scottish body reach its decision. However, in England, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) last week issued draft guidance for consultation recommending it not be made available for those with severe asthma.

This recommendation follows two earlier consultations in which NICE has been considering evidence on whether the new treatment benefits patients and is cost-effective.

Dr Samantha Walker, Asthma UK's Director of Research and Policy, said:

“Whilst Asthma UK has worked very hard to make sure that use of this crucial treatment for people with severe asthma was accepted in Scotland, which we are delighted to see, we have grave concerns over the difference in the situation in England.

“Only last week NICE recommended that mepolizumab should not be used in the NHS in England, which was very disappointing. We will respond to this consultation on behalf of the 250,000 people with severe asthma in the UK who struggle to breathe every day without effective treatments. Whilst we know mepolizumab will not work for everyone, it will work for many with a particular type of the condition. It is vital that this drug is made available to people with severe asthma likely to benefit, irrespective of where in the UK they live.

“Mepolizumab has been shown to be clinically effective at reducing severe asthma symptoms in people with a certain type of asthma and should be available to those people who are most likely to benefit from it. Obviously this needs to be at a price that the NHS can afford, so it is essential that NICE and the manufacturer continue to work together and find a solution.

“There is nothing as terrifying as not being able to breathe and this decision highlights the challenge we need to address to ensure new treatments are made available to those people with severe asthma who will benefit from them.”