The National Institute for Heath and Care Excellence has published draft guidance recommending UCB Pharma's TNF inhibitor Cimzia as an option for severe rheumatoid arthritis when other drugs haven't worked or aren't suitable.

The Institute already recommends the Cimzia (certolizumab pegol) for treating severe rheumatoid arthritis which has not responded to intensive therapy with a combination of conventional disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs); this new proposed guidance expands the number of people who can be considered for treatment by recommending the drug's use after a type of DMARD called a TNF inhibitor has been tried and rituximab is not an option.

Around 580,000 people in England are thought to have rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory autoimmune disease that usually affects the small joints of the hands and feet causing swelling, stiffness, pain and progressive joint destruction, and 15% have the severe form of the disease.

"Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease for which there is no cure and one that can have a severe impact on quality of life," noted Professor Carole Longson, director of the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE.

"NICE already recommends a number of drugs as possible options for severe rheumatoid arthritis after treatment with a TNF inhibitor has failed and where rituximab is not an option. We hope that adding certolizumab pegol to this list will mean that people with severe rheumatoid arthritis will be able to manage their condition more effectively so they can lead as full and active a life as possible".

Cimzia costs £6,793 per patient during the first year and then £9,295 yearly for subsequent years, taking into account a patient access scheme agreed between UCB and the Department of Health under which the first 12 weeks of treatment are free of charge.