The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has expanded the treatment options available to patients with ulcerative colitis on the National Health Service.

Merck Sharpe & Dohme’s Remicade (infliximab) and Simponi (golimumab) and AbbVie’s Humira (adalimumab) will be routinely funded on the NHS to treat the chronic bowel condition in patients with moderate to severe disease, significantly expanding access to these biologics. 

Around 146,000 people in the UK live with UC, and the new recommendation means that more options are available to patients giving them a greater chance of controlling symptoms “so they can have a much better quality of life,” said Carole Longson, NICE Health Technology Evaluation Centre Director.

MSD said the guidance “marks a significant step-change in the treatment options available for patients with moderately to severely active disease, with previous guidance restricting the use of these newer biologic therapies to those hospitalised with severe UC”. Until now, patients who were considered subacute and non-hospitalised faced having their colons removed if conventional therapies failed, so access to alternative treatment options will no doubt be very welcome.

Also welcoming the guidance, Chris Probert, Professor of Gastroenterology at the University of Liverpool, chair of the IBD Section for the British Society of Gastroenterology and vice-chair of the Clinical Advisers Committee for Crohn’s and Colitis UK, said “hopefully most patients will not require such drugs, but it is a great comfort to know that we can use them when we need to”.