The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is to review the arthritis drugs MabThera (rituximab; sold as Rituxan in US), Orencia (abatacept), Humira (adalimumab), and Arava (leflunomide) under its speedier single technology appraisals process.

The cost-effectiveness of Roche’s MabThera and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Orencia is being considered for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, while Abbott’s Humira and Sanofi-Aventis’ Arava are under the microscope for severe psoriatic arthritis, and their entry onto the fast-track review program could mean a decision on NICE within just six months.

The organization had submitted a second batch of existing programmes that would fit the profile to be considered for the STA to the Department of Health, a spokesperson for NICE told PharmaTimes World News. Others granted a speedier review by the government include: Genentech's thrombolytic product Cathflo Activase (alteplase) for acute stroke; Pfizer’s much-hyped smoking cessation aid Chantix (varenicline); and Eli Lilly’s Arxxant for eye disease.

NICE introduced its STA process in response to mounting criticism of the time it took the agency to decide whether to endorse or reject a drug’s use on the National Health Service, cutting down the review process for those entering the elite STA stable to six from up to two years.