The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has recommended dupilumab for some patients whose asthma does not respond to conventional treatments. Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation Partnership said the drug would change the lives of some of the 200,000 people who suffer with regular asthma attacks and emergency trips to hospital.
In clinical trials, “wonder drug” dupilumab has been shown to reduce the frequency of asthma attacks and the use of emergency steroid tablets by almost half when combined with standard inhalers.
However, the charity said current guidelines from Nice “are not clear” about when to refer people with severe asthma. It means those most at risk are not referred for treatments.
Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and innovation at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: “Today’s news could be a real game-changer for the thousands of people with severe asthma who live in constant fear of a life-threatening asthma attack happening at any time.”
She added: “While Nice’s decision to recommend dupilumab is cause for celebration, the sad fact is that four in five people with suspected severe asthma are not being referred to
specialists for the treatments that could transform, and even save, their lives.
“Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation is calling for Nice to develop new, clear guidelines so healthcare professionals are confident about when to refer patients with possible severe asthma to get the specialist care they so desperately need.”
The criteria for accessing the drug is strict and includes only patients who have severe asthma with Type 2 inflammation (a defined pattern of immune response).
They must also meet an inflammation threshold, have had at least four severe asthma attacks in the past year and be ineligible for other biological treatments.