Novarts’ Xolair (omalizumab) has been recommended for routine use by the National Health Service as an add-on treatment for patients who have severe chronic spontaneous episodes of hives (urticaria).

In draft guidelines, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is supporting the monthly injection for adults and young people over the age of 12 with persistent hives when antihistamines do not work, after the firm submitted new evidence to back its use.

Xolair, a monoclonal antibody targeting Immunoglobulin E, was cleared in Europe last year to treat chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU) - characterised by a debilitating form of chronic itch, hives and deep swelling in the tissue of the skin - making it the only approved therapy for the up to 50% of patients who do not respond to antihistamines. 

The cost for a 24-week course of treatment is £3,073 (excluding VAT), but the drug is available through a confidential patient access scheme to boost its cost-effectiveness for the NHS.