Today the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended Reslizumab, also known as Cinqaero, as an add-on therapy for people with severe eosinophilic asthma.
This is good news for the approximately 160,000-200,000 UK adults and children with severe asthma in England. NICE’s recommendation means that three different targeted treatments for severe asthma will be available on the NHS: Omalizumab (Xolair) and Mepolizumab (Nucala) – and now Reslizumab (Cinqaero).
These medicines will not only help stop asthma attacks but hopefully also help to reduce use of oral corticosteroids, which have serious side effects including diabetes, osteoporosis and depression if taken long-term. This recommendation means that fewer people with severe asthma will be forced to choose between the threat of a deadly asthma attack and these life-destroying side effects.
What did we do?
In December 2016, Asthma UK submitted evidence to NICE making the case that people with severe asthma were in urgent need of new, targeted treatments. We also made it clear that the side effects of currently available treatments for severe asthma, notably oral corticosteroids, were ruining lives.
It’s not been an easy process. The first time they assessed it, the NICE appraisal committee decided not to recommend Reslizumab. We had to keep making the case for people with severe asthma; attending meetings and giving evidence alongside one of our volunteers, Nichola, who spoke about the stark reality of living with severe asthma. Our work paid off: NICE approved it during a second round of discussions.
Now that NICE has recommended Reslizumab, the next step is a two week window during which organisations can appeal the decision. As NICE is saying that people with severe asthma should have access to a potentially lifesaving treatment it is unlikely that anyone will challenge the recommendation.
After this window, the NHS has 90 days to make the treatment available to patients; meaning patients in England who meet the criteria and are cared for by a specialist should have access to Reslizumab at the end of 2017.
Who will get Reslizumab / Cinqaero?
Reslizumab will target severe eosinophilic asthma, which we believe affects around 40% of people with severe asthma. In eosinophilic asthma, the inflammation of the airways is linked to a type of white blood cell (eosinophils).
If someone with severe eosinophilic asthma has three asthma attacks, doctors will test for the number of eosinophilic cells in their blood. They’ll be eligible for Reslizumab if their test result is above a level set by NICE.
There are two other targeted severe asthma treatments currently available through the NHS, Omalizumab (Xolair) and Mepolizumab (Nucala). However, these do not work for certain types of asthma so having Reslizumab means even more people will have access to a potentially life-saving treatment.
There is still much more to do
Today’s announcement is great news, but, there is more work to do. We need to:
- Ensure Reslizumab also becomes available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- Make sure that Reslizumab gets to the people that need it. Diagnosing severe asthma is complicated and often takes a long time. Better diagnostic tests are needed to help ensure that people can have a diagnosis quickly and appropriate treatments can be offered.
- Ensure services for people with severe asthma are fit for purpose, so that high-quality specialist services can be accessed by those that need them wherever they live.
- Champion more investment in research. While today is great news for some people with severe asthma, the majority still do not have effective treatments. Far less is known about the non-eosinophilic types of severe asthma. We need research so that these people can benefit from new treatments as well.
To find out more about severe asthma, and the pathway to future treatments, please see our Severe Asthma report.