Asthma victim fears that drug might be withdrawn
AN asthma sufferer who says her life has been transformed by a "wonder drug" is horrified that it might no longer be available on the NHS.
Sophie May spent six months battling to get injectable Xolair, after she was twice taken into intensive care.
The drug reduces the number of attacks in people who have allergic asthma. Sophie, 23, first heard about it from a magazine article in early 2007.
At first. she could not get the drug on the NHS and was told it would cost her family more than £2,000 for a 16-week course.
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By November 2007, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) had approved its use in patients over 12 and, a month later, Sophie had her first injection.
But NICE is now recommending that the drug be withdrawn on the NHS. It is understood it feels the treatment is no longer "cost-effective".
A final decision will not be made until early 2013 but Sophie, whose condition once left her in a wheelchair, said: "I know that, without Xolair, I wouldn't be alive today.
"I haven't yet discussed with my nurses how this might affect me. All I know is that I don't want to think about the possibility of no longer having it because it's such a horrible thing to contemplate."
Before the treatment, Sophie had struggled to cope with asthma from the age of 12.
She would suffer severe attacks, with the weather, dust, smoke and physical activity among the numerous triggers.
Sophie, of Howard Close, Long Eaton, said her trips to hospital could last anything from one night to a week and she was put on several medications – including steroids.
At 14, she was rushed into intensive care twice in three months and was only released after life-saving spells on a ventilator.
Since then, says the former Sandiacre Friesland School pupil, the drug has allowed her to go to university, graduate and marry her partner, Martin, 24.
Neil Churchill, chief executive of the Asthma UK charity, said: "We are surprised and disappointed by this decision. Xolair is the only treatment that works for some people with severe asthma and its benefits can be life-changing. We find it hard to understand why NICE wants to change its previous recommendation when there is no major new evidence to suggest that it is any less effective than was previously thought.
"We strongly urge Novartis and NICE to work together to try to find a way to make this vital treatment affordable for the NHS to give to people who need it."