bluebird bio’s beta-thalassaemia gene therapy betibeglogene autotemcel (beti-cel) has not been recommended by the UK’s National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for use on the NHS.

Beti-cel, marketed as Zynteglo in Europe, is a gene therapy intended for the treatment of transfusion-dependent beta-thalassaemia (TDT) in people aged 12 years and older who do not have a beta0/beta0 genotype.

It is indicated for TDT patients when haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is appropriate but there is no suitable donor.

TDT is the most severe form of thalassaemia, a condition wherein an inherited faulty gene leads to the inability of the body to produce normally functioning haemoglobin.

People living with TDT require life-long blood transfusions every two to five weeks.

In its draft recommendations, NICE commented that the follow-up on people included in clinical trials of beti-cel was not very long, adding that the population included was ‘small’.

NICE also determined that there were uncertainties around the cost-effectiveness of beti-cel, with the estimate for the gene therapy ‘considerably higher’ than what it usually deems an acceptable use of NHS resources.

“We are extremely disappointed with NICE’S decision not to recommend betibeglogene autotemcel as a treatment option in the UK,” said Romaine Maharaj, executive director, UK Thalassaemia Society.

“We also feel disheartened that our patient experts were misquoted and used out of context and feel that NICE needs to rectify this. Having an option and the access to a potentially curable treatment is vital and should be offered to patients,” she added.