The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has given its stamp of approval for NHS use of Vifor Pharma’s hyperkalaemia drug Veltassa (patiromer).

The drug, which was initially turned down by the cost regulator in 2018, will be offered as an option for adults in emergency care or for people with chronic hyperkalaemia and may benefit 13,600 people.

Hyperkalaemia is characterised by elevated potassium levels in the blood. Risk of developing the condition increases significantly for patients with chronic kidney disease and for those who take life-saving medications for heart failure, such as renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) inhibitors, which can increase potassium in the blood.

Veltassa was previously not recommended due to a lack of clinical and cost-effectiveness data, however, following new evidence and a lower price, it is now considered an “acceptable use of NHS resources”, the Institute noted.

Additionally, it said clinical trials show that the drug lowers serum potassium and may allow patients to stay on RAAS inhibitors (drugs used to treat heart failure and kidney disease) for longer or at a higher dose.

The new recommendation acknowledges that lowering potassium levels for patients needing emergency care “could be a life-saving intervention”.

“This is as great a result for us as clinicians as it is for our patients," said Professor Iain Squire, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trusts.

"For decades we have lacked effective drugs to treat hyperkalaemia, which has left us in a treatment paradox, confusing patients and leaving them in ‘limbo’. We have a robust array of life-preserving drugs for heart failure and chronic kidney disease, but the adverse effect on potassium levels of the use of some of these drugs in some patients has prevented us from using them to their full life-saving effect in many of the patients who need them the most".