Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommend Novartis' Cosentyx for treating active ankylosing spondylitis that has not responded well enough to conventional therapy.

AS is a long-term condition affecting around 200,000 people in the UK, a kind of arthritis in which the spine and other areas of the body become inflamed. Up to 70 percent of patients who go on to develop severe AS will form spinal fusions, a condition in which the bones grow together, over 10 to 15 years, which significantly reduces mobility.

Cosentyx (secukinumab) is a human monoclonal antibody that works by blocking the activity of interleukin 17A, which is involved in ankylosing spondylitis, reducing the activity of the immune system and the symptoms of the disease.

NICE says the drug is recommended only if the company provides it with the discount agreed in the patient access scheme, and that doctors must assess response to the drug after 16 weeks of treatment and only continue if there is clear evidence of response.

Debbie Cook, chief executive at National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS), said the charity is "delighted" with the recommendation, noting that "treatment options are very limited for people living with AS and this will offer a new option".

Also commenting on the decision, Dimitrios Georgiopoulos, ‎Novartis' chief scientific officer said it means "a much needed treatment option" for patients and also "highlights the potential of Cosentyx as the new standard of care".

Cosentyx is already approved by NICE for restricted use within the NHS in England and Wales to treat adults with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis, and has been accepted by sister body the Scottish Medicines Consortium for restricted use within NHS Scotland to treat adults plaque psoriasis and AS.