NHS rejects ‘life-changing’ breakthrough migraine drug after a row about how effective it is
- Breakthrough migraine drug will not be available on NHS, officials will say today
- Patients say erenumab is life-changing and halts debilitating headaches
- But it has been dismissed by health officials in a row over clinical evidence
A breakthrough migraine drug is to be rejected for NHS use, officials will say today.
Patients say erenumab is life-changing, halting debilitating headaches and nausea after all other treatments have failed.
The monthly injection is the first migraine drug for 20 years and could help more than 500,000 sufferers. But it has been dismissed by health officials in a row over clinical evidence.
The treatment prevents nearly half of migraine attacks for people who have few other treatment options, major trials have shown. But drugs watchdog Nice will this morning recommend that it is not used on the NHS in England and Wales.
The treatment prevents nearly half of migraine attacks for people who have few other treatment options, major trials have shown. But drugs watchdog Nice will this morning recommend that it is not used on the NHS in England and Wales (stock image)
Officials said the company behind the drug – pharmaceutical giant Novartis – has not provided evidence that it is any better than Botox, which is commonly used by migraine sufferers. In view of this, officials believe the high price of the drug – nearly £5,000 a year minus a confidential NHS discount – means it cannot be shown to be cost-effective.
The treatment, developed by NHS-funded UK scientists, has been available privately for the past year at the cost of £386 a month. In April it was approved for use on the NHS in Scotland. More than 8million Britons – three-quarters of them women – suffer migraines. Yet until now there has been no tailor-made treatment, with patients given beta blockers, antidepressants and Botox.
Last July the drug – sold under the brand name Aimovig – was given a European licence for those suffering migraines at least four times a month and who have tried three types of oral treatment.
Dr David Bloomfield, chief executive at the National Migraine Centre in London, said: ‘We are saddened. This removes hope and options for those people unable to find relief.
‘We hope that in the fullness of time as more data becomes available this decision might be revisited.’ The National Migraine Centre, which has used the drug privately on 200 patients in the past year, said 69 per cent reported a better quality of life and 75 per cent said they would recommend it.
Headache specialist Dr Katy Munro, who works at the centre, said: ‘We see many desperate migraine sufferers who cannot finance this kind of treatment.’
Professor Peter Goadsby, of King’s College London, who developed the drug over 30 years, said: The decision seems to reflect a lack of concern and understanding for patients with migraine who would benefit. It leaves very many patients in England and Wales trapped by a postcode lottery in a life dominated by this very disabling neurological condition.’
In a statement, Nice said it accepted erenumab ‘is a clinically effective treatment’. However, it added: ‘For chronic migraine there was no direct evidence comparing erenumab with Botox which is considered current practice in the NHS in England.’
Haseeb Ahmad, UK managing director of Novartis, said: ‘There remains an unmet need for effective and well-tolerated preventive migraine treatments in the UK.’