NICE wants to limit anti-TNF use

Hear those cries of protest? They're coming from the U.K., whose National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued guidelines today that would limit patients' access to high-tech arthritis meds. Under the guidelines, each patient could use only one of the anti-TNF drugs--Centocor's Remicade (infliximab), Abbott Laboratories' Humira (adalimumab), and Amgen's Enbrel (etanercept)--and couldn't try another if the first stopped working or didn't help in the first place.

NICE said that giving patients more than one of these meds is not cost-effective, and that if one of them doesn't work, then docs should use Roche's Rituxan--known as Mab Thera in the U.K. and Rituxan in the U.S. Rheumatoid arthritis activists rose to the anti-TNF drugs' defense, saying that a limit of one would amount to "one roll of the dice" and "rationing without rationality."

The guidelines aren't in force yet; a final version is due in September. Activists are hoping that the outcry convinces NICE to change its mind. It worked before; NICE proposed anti-TNF limits in 2006, but recanted after protest.

- see the BBC story
- check out the coverage in the Telegraph