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Arthritis drug gets NHS approval

Patients with severe arthritis are to be given access to a new generation of drug on the NHS. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has approved the so-called “smart drug” MabThera for prescription in England and Wales.

The drug works by specifically targeting one of the key immune system cells involved in rheumatoid arthritis. It comes after a similar drug, Orencia, was ruled out for prescription.

The final recommendation from NICE means doctors in England and Wales can now prescribe MabThera to NHS patients who have not responded to other therapies.

NICE has said that MabThera, which is made by Roche and goes under the generic name rituximab, will be available to NHS patients who fail to improve after first being given the most advanced treatment currently on the market, antiTNF drugs.

It will be prescribed in addition to another drug, methotrexate.

Arthritis Care chief executive Neil Betteridge said: “It’s a triumph. The search for effective treatment can be a long, agonising journey, littered with dashed hopes.”