A novel treatment for patients with asthma uncontrolled by medicines that involves reducing muscle mass in the lungs has been approved for routine use on the NHS.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has published draft guidance concluding that the procedure is safe and effective enough for use on the NHS, “depending on commissioning arrangements”.
Bronchial thermoplasty for severe asthma takes place under sedation or general anaesthetic and involves delivering short pulses of radiofrequency energy to the airway wall to reduce the smooth muscle mass lining the airways, decreasing their ability to constrict.
The Institute said this can decrease the severity and frequency of severe asthma attacks, thereby improving quality of life for patients whose symptoms cannot be adequately controlled with drugs.
New data on the procedure allowed the independent committee to change their recommendation and to allow this procedure to be carried out under standard commissioning arrangements rather than special arrangements.
“Asthma is a common disease and the vast majority of patients won’t require this treatment. But for people with severe asthma this procedure could be life changing,” said Professor Kevin Harris, programme director and clinical advisor for the Interventional Procedures Programme at NICE.
“The committee was convinced it was safe enough and works well enough for use with standard arrangements in the NHS.”
While there is no legal requirement to comply with NICE interventional procedure guidelines, it is considered best clinical practice for the NHS to do so.
“Making this treatment available to more people could offer much-needed hope to thousands of people in the UK who have severe asthma,” Joe Farrington-Douglas, head of policy and external affairs at the charity Asthma UK, told the media.
“This debilitating form of asthma is resistant to regular treatments, meaning many have to cope with terrifying asthma symptoms, such as gasping for breath, as well repeated trips to A&E. Every asthma attack is life-threatening.
“Until now, this treatment has only been available for specific patients at some specialist centres, but these new guidelines could mean more people with the condition could reap the benefits.”