NICE draft guidance recommends new drug for people with ankylosing spondylitis

New draft guidance from NICE means thousands of people with back condition ankylosing spondylitis will soon have access to an innovative new drug.

The draft guidance recommends innovative new drug secukinumab (Cosentyx, Novartis) for treating ankylosing spondylitis, a type of arthritis that mainly affects the joints of the lower spine, leading to back pain, stiffness, swelling and tiredness.

Secukinumab, which was only licensed for use in the UK in May, is the first in a new class of drug to treat the condition. The drug helps patients by reducing inflammation and pain and improving mobility. It comes in pre-filled pen syringes and is injected by the patient.

The draft guidance recommends the drug for treating active ankylosing spondylitis in adults when non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or TNF-alpha inhibitors haven’t worked or aren’t suitable.

Professor Carole Longson MBE, director of the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE, said: “Ankylosing spondylitis is a painful, debilitating and lifelong condition that can have a major negative impact on quality of life.

“The committee heard from patient and clinical experts that having a greater choice of treatments would be particularly valuable because it would allow people with ankylosing spondylitis and their clinicians choose treatments that reflect their individual needs and preferences and give them more control over their condition.

“The committee also heard that it is particularly important to have a different option for patients when treatment with a second TNF-alpha inhibitor isn’t possible or hasn’t worked.

“The committee concluded that secukinumab is a promising new advance in treating active ankylosing spondylitis and that its availability on the NHS would be good news for people with this often distressing condition.”

Around 200,000 people have ankylosing spondylitis in the UK, with approximately 2,300 new diagnoses each year in England and Wales. The condition is about three times more common in men than in women.

Secukinumab is a human monoclonal antibody; it works by blocking the activity of the molecule interleukin 17A which is involved in ankylosing spondylitis, reducing the activity of the immune system and the symptoms of the disease.

The list price of secukinumab is £9140.85 per person in the first year and £7312.68 in subsequent years. The drug is recommended only if the company provides it with the discount agreed in the confidential patient access scheme.