Roche/Chugai’s RoActemra should be routinely offered throughout the NHS to adults with giant cell arteritis (GCA) within the next three months, following a final green light from cost regulators.
Almost 15,000 patients develop GCA in the UK every year. The condition is a potentially life-threatening form of vasculitis that results in inflammation of blood vessels, which can be difficult to diagnose because of its wide range of symptoms, including severe headaches, scalp tenderness and jaw pain. If left untreated it can lead to blindness, aortic aneurysm or stroke.
To date, management of GCA has been limited to long-term high-dose steroids, but this can cause skin problems and weight gain, as well as diabetes and osteoporosis in the long-term. There have been no treatment advances for GCA for nearly 60 years.
RoActemra (tocilizumab) is an anti-IL-6 receptor licensed for the treatment of adult patients with moderate to severe active rheumatoid arthritis, polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis and systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis in children two years of age and older, and for the treatment of GCA in adults.
Clinical trial results show that after having RoActemra plus a tapering course of glucocorticoids for one year, more people stay in remission and need lower doses of glucocorticoids compared with people having glucocorticoids alone.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is recommending funding for one year’s treatment with the drug for patients who suffer flares of their GCA or may not respond fully to steroids, as their disease is most difficult to control.