Tags: anti-TNF, arthritis, autoimmune arthritis, biologic, biolsimilar, chest, clinician, cold, Conference, fatigue, Future of Health, hospital, NRAS, R.A., RA, Rheumatoid arthritis, sinuses
Well, I meant to write this post about biosimilars weeks ago, but alas, I came back from London and fairly quickly went down with a really bad cold, which I’m still getting over now! It was bad enough, combined with the methotrexate/immunosuppression, to require antibiotics for the secondary infection and it hit chest and sinusses at the same time, so I’ve been feeling pretty poorly!
Luckily Clare at NRAS had asked to write a brief report about the conference for them – on slightly more serious lines than my last post, and I did that pretty much straight away after coming back, before the cold hit, and that included something about the biosimilars, which I’m going to reproduce here. So here we go:
The next talk I attended was ‘Biosimilars: realising the opportunity for the NHS and patients’. Biologic patents are soon to run out. Biosimilars are biologics too, but they are designed to be as similar as possible to the molecules of already successful biologics, reducing the need for as much expensive primary research as went into the original biologics. As they are not identical, and as these molecules are extraordinarily complex, they will still need to go through, and some are already going through clinical trials, because, as Professor Peter Taylor said in his talk, ‘minor structural differences can have disproportionately large effects in patients’. However, there is a lack of education around biosimilars both among patients and clinicians, not to mention commissioners, so their introduction into the NHS could be a complex matter.
At the last minute there were no patients speaking in this talk due to some obscure ruling to do with the pharmaceutical company involved only speaking on panels with medically trained people.
First, Professor Peter Taylor, Norman Collison Chair of Musculoskeletal Science, Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, University of Oxford, gave a very clear and concise outline of what a biosimilar was. Carol Roberts, PresQIPP Director on NHS involvement in biosimilars was keen to reassure that ‘value’ was based on outcome and not just on price, although biosimilars could be a huge saving to the NHS, £3.8 million. (Actually given NHS budgets that didn’t sound that huge to me, but every little helps!) People with RA on biologics now will probably be pleased to hear that the intention at the moment is to only put new patients onto biosimilars, not to take people off biologics that are working for them and move them onto the cheaper drugs. Janice Mooney, Senior Lecturer in Primary Care, University of East Anglia and senior Rheumatology Nurse Practitioner, pointed out that all clinicians need to be educated in biosimilars, not just patients and consultants. Given that patients may only see a consultant once a year (or less) this is obviously essential!
There was some concern among patients in the room about safety, although to me biosimilars do seem like the logical next step in medication of RA – another audience member pointed out that there was a massive trust issue between patients and the NHS with a feeling that the NHS always went for price above effectiveness, which led to a feeling that if something was cheaper it couldn’t be as good. One person even wondered if there could be a backlash against these similar to that of GM foods a few years ago, if the press wasn’t properly educated. Janice Mooney responded that this was a key area where education was required. David Taylor pointed out that clinical trials were not enough to guarantee safety, due to rare risks, because of the small number of people involved in trials, so that safe and responsible introduction of the new drugs was also essential.
From my own persona point of view, and of course this didn’t get added into my serious report for NRAS, I’d just like to say ra ra ra, go biosimilars … especially as i might be needing them in a few years’ time!
Tags: anti-TNF, arthritis, health, IRHOM2, medicine, R.A., RA, rhematoid arthritis, rheumatoid, Rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), rheumatology, science, TNF, TNF alpha, tumour necrosis factor
A protein called IRHOM2 has been identified as a possible new target for drugs aimed at treating RA, and could be useful for those who do not respond to anti-TNFs or even eventually replace anti-TNFs altogether. The full article on IRHOM2 can be found here, but here’s a short summary.
TNF or tumour necrosis factor has a useful purpose in the body; it is a signalling protein and it signals the body to produce a protective inflammatory response. Thus if a part of you is infected, TNF starts the process of inflammation, which takes immune response cells to the appropriate area in the blood, and they start to attack the disease-causers. In this case inflammation is a good thing.
However, when too much TNF is produced, immune cells start to act on things they shouldn’t, like our joints – leading to RA.
Anti-TNFs attack TNFs directly, and do a mighty fine job for many people, but they are toxic and can have nasty side effects.
IRHOM2 is a protein that helps to release TNF from where it sits harmlessly and inactively on the surface of cells, so attacking IRHOM2 should have the same effect as attacking TNF – reducing in TNF release and therefore reduction in inappropriately active immune cells, and so reduction in RA symptoms.
It is hoped that drugs targeting IRHOM2 would be less toxic, because they will only block TNF release from the specific cells that contribute to joint damage, and they could be an alternative for those who don’t respond well to anti-TNFs.
There is, of course, a long way to go. This is just the identification of a possible target. The next step is to find something that will actually block IRHOM2 and be safe to use in patients. Then there will be the long, slow plod (quite necessary for safety reasons!) through clinical trials, with no doubt a few failures along the way – but some years down the line this could be a real breakthrough. Let’s hope so!
p.s. I do hope this makes sense! I’m really, really tired and I haven’t had hubby proofread it yet!
Tags: anti-TNF, arthritis, flare, hospital appointment, NICE, nurse practitioner, physical therapy, physio, physiotherapy, R.A., RA, RA flare, Rheumatoid arthritis
I was on my way to my six-monthly (ish) hospital appointment this morning, and feeling distinctly glum, most definitely not wanting to go, when the news came on the radio and cheered me up slightly. Some excellent news for UK RA patients generally, I’m delighted to say: NICE has reversed its ludicrous policy of refusing to treat patients who failed on one anti-TNF with another. Anti-TNFs are not all the same, so saying that because a patient fails on one they won’t benefit from a different one is patently absurd, but that’s exactly what NICE, the patently absurd National Institute for ‘Clinical Excellence’ had decided to do. From later this year though, patients who fail on one anti-TNF will be allowed another go. (I think only one more go, but that’s better than none!)
Hopefully I shall never need to worry about this from a personal point of view as I seem to be doing well on the methotrexate. Inevitably the three-week flare I’ve just come through has now passed (just in time for the hospital appointment, of course) and didn’t show up in the bloods, so it’s not being taken at all seriously. Still, on the bright side it DOES seem to be over, so next time I shall just have to gird my loins and nag the hospital while I’m HAVING a flare, if only so they get to see it!
So that was the mildly irritating.
The bad is physio – not my physio of course; she’s still lovely. But apparently, ‘In order to be in line with private practice’ they are going to restrict all patients to a maximum of six appointments before a re-referral is required. It’s a very confusing system which I’ll explain in another post, but I can probably get re-referred. However, if I normally have physio twice monthly, I’ll have to get rereferred every three months and then wait around five weeks for an appointment, where presumably I won’t be guaranteed to see my lovely physio and will be reassessed each time, even though after a couple of years I think between the two of us we have a pretty good idea of what works! (Anyway, more about this whinge later!) The bright side is that I have at least had her for around two years, and when I started seeing her I thought then that they’d kick me out after six appointments, so I suppose I can’t complain. (Oh wait – yes I can …)
Tags: anti-TNF, appointment, arthritis, consultant, flare, GP, hospital, medicine, methotrexate, MTX, NHS, NRAS, nurse, nurse practitioner, R.A., RA, rhematoid arthritis, rheumatoid, Rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), rheumatology
It’s official – I had a flare at the end of October/early November … and more, I suspect. No kidding. I think I knew that, but this time it actually showed in the bloods! That’s a first for me!! I’ll give the consultant his due though – he was as amazed as I was that the bloods actually matched with how I’d felt, so he does at least appreciate that one can feel totally lousy and have no indication in the blood tests whatsoever, and vice versa.
Anyway, we agreed that things were going pretty well at the moment and that it didn’t seem sensible to go on increasing the MTX willy-nilly if things were OK. I explained that I knew I was much, much better than last time I’d seen him (which I think was well over a year ago, as I’ve since seen a registrar and a nurse but not the man himself), but that they certainly weren’t perfect, and for the first time he admitted that I probably wasn’t going to achieve perfect … I’d kinda figured that out, but still a slight blow to hear him say it!
He then cheerily added that never mind, compared to what he usually saw I really wasn’t bad at all. He has no idea just how bloody irritating this comment is – he’s said it before. I think last time I was too dazed and generally fed up to actually respond, but this time I was properly prepared and I pointed out that I wasn’t comparing myself with his other patients – I was comparing myself to myself before this whole R.A. business started, and that when I do that I don’t see my current self in a terribly favourable light. The nurse who sits in with him (as a chaperon and to make sure he remembers to fill all his forms in!) was nodding sympathetically and understandingly behind his back. I got the feeling she’d heard this comment from him before and had thought exactly what I was now saying. Anyway, he sort of blinked a bit, looked rather surprised at being answered back to and mumbled something that was vaguely conciliatory … I think.
Then he bid me to enter his dream world by saying, “If the MTX doesn’t keep things under control, if you have another flare, we’ll put you on these terribly expensive new drugs called biologics or anti-TNFs.” (He does tend to forget I have a brain.)
I snorted – very rude, but it just sort of happened! I said something like, “Have to be one hell of a flare for the NHS to let me on to those!”
“Oh no,” says he, “just an ordinary sort of flare.”
Well, that’s certainly not the impression I’ve been given by the NRAS magazine, the people on the NRAS forum (other R.A. sufferers, generally in a much worse state than me, who have failed the ‘DAS test’ for anti-TNFs), the press, people I met in Barcelona, the nurse practitioner, the GP, the practice nurse … just about everyone else really. Since this is the man that told me I should see him in three months last time, when it was totally impossible for anyone to get an appointment closer than six months, and the man who told me that all I needed to do if I had a flare was phone and I’d get straight through to someone on the helpline (not true as it’s usually unmanned and then they don’t call you back) I don’t feel too filled with faith about the biologics comment either! I dare say though that his “ordinary sort of flare” would be the ordinary sort of flare that his other patients have, not my little fizzle!
Well, hopefully the MTX will now do its job properly and I won’t need to ever find out whether he’s living in a dream world or I’m just being unnecessarily pessimistic about my prospects for biologics!
Tags: anti-TNF, biologic, combination therapy, golimumab, methotrexate, R.A., RA, Rheumatoid arthritis, Simponi
The EU are keeping busy with their approvals programme. Simponi (golimumab) is another biologic just approved for rheumatoid arthritis. It’s approved for moderate to severe R.A. either in conjunction with methotrexate or on its own.
Tags: Abatacept, anti-TNF, arthritis, biologic, Cochrane Review, inflamation, inflamed joints, intranasal, NICE, nostrils, pain, recombinant Human Cartilage glycoprotein-39, rhematoid arthritis
Current NICE guidelines say that Abatacept (one of the many biologics, anti-TNFs) should not be used in R.A. patients who have not responded to other biologics. Now a Cochrane Review (a review designed to help policy makers and healthcare workers make decisions on what is and isn’t effective) says that Abatacept IS effective in R.A. treatment. NICE are already in the process of reviewing their current guidance, but a decision is not expected until June 2010. The review strongly recommends that for the moment Abatacept is not used WITH other biologics – but says nothing about use if other biologics have been tried and have failed, which suggests that perhaps NICE should be recommending it for those with rheumatoid arthritis who have failed on other anti-TNFs.
Like all anti-TNFs, how safe it is in the long term has not yet been established – because none of them have been around long enough, but the Cochrane review (by Dr. Lisa Maxwell in Ottawa) showed that patients given Abatacept were twice as likely to achieve a 50% improvement in symptoms such as pain and the number of tender and swollen joints.
In the meantime a study on intranasal administration of recombinant Human Cartilage glycoprotein-39 for treatment of R.A. has failed. Personally I don’t fancy a regular treatment via my nostrils … although if I had moderate to severe R.A. I guess I’d try anything once! However it didn’t show any improvement over placebo, so I dare say I will never need to try that one. Phew.
Tags: Actemra, anti-TNF, arthritis, National Institute for Clinical Excellence, NICE, RA, rheumatoid, Rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), rheumatology, RoActemra, Roche, tocilizumab
NICE have rejected yet another R.A. drug – this time for ‘moderate to severe R.A.’ It’s RoActemra (tocilizumab), known as Actemra in the U.S. apparently.
OK, so right now this isn’t a huge personal concern for me – apart from the ‘scrofulous pustule’ and other minor unpleasant side effects, the methotrexate is doing its job; but it’s a huge concern for R.A. patients in the U.K. in general, and potentially also for me personally in the future.
Here’s a link to an article about it, as there’s no point in me saying everything that’s already been said … and that I’ve already said about other drugs on this blog! In brief, and I quote: “the Committee has concluded that, at an approximate cost of £9,295 a year for a patient weighing approximately 70 kg, the therapy is just too expensive for use on the NHS and would not represent a cost-effective use of resources.”
I’d better start losing weight now, as if I ever need anti-TNFs in future NICE will probably decide it’s too expensive to fund overweight patients, as underweight patients need less drug! Well I suppose if NICE are inadvertently making me lose weight, that’s one positive benefit of them!
Tags: anti-TNF, arthritis, DMARD, medicine, methotrexate, NHS, NICE, RA, Rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), rituximab
Could the news that rituximab (MabThera) can provide dramatically improved results in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis be a real breakthrough at last? The thing I find most encouraging about the research, carried out by Prof. Paul-Peter Tak from the University of Amsterdam, is that it’s research based on a drug that’s already out there in the market, not something we’ll have to wait ten years for approval for.
Tak (which means thank-you in Norwegian, something many of us might want to say to him if this research is taken through into treatment) showed that treating patients early with rituximab and methotrexate in combination, can virtually stop the disease in its tracks. The 755 patient trial of recently diagnosed patients, most of whom had suffered the disease for less than a year, showed that nearly 2.5 times as many patients on the treatment went in to remission, compared with those treated with methotrexate alone.
Of course, like all RA treatments (to date, anyway) it doesn’t work for everyone, and so far the investigation has only been on recently diagnosed patients, but it certainly sounds encouraging. At the moment in the UK rituximab is only prescribed after failure of anti-TNF therapy, but NICE might actually take this option seriously as the cost of rituximab is about a quarter of an anti-TNF so it makes economic as well as medical sense to try rituximab first.
Here’s hoping NICE do something sensible for once!
Tags: alternative medicine, anti-TNF, conventional medicine, doctors, medicine, miracle cure, miracle cure for RA, RA, Rheumatoid arthritis
A lot of alternative medicine is good. It’s ‘alternative’ because it’s not been proven scientifically in double-blind trials, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. It might just mean that no one has enough interest in funding the trials or, more to the point, sees enough profit in doing so. Full scientific investigation complete with clinical trials is an extremely expensive business.
However, a lot of conventional medicine is also good, and that’s something that a lot of alternative medicine aficionados tend to forget … and in fairness vice versa is certainly also true.
The biggest pity, to my mind, is the divide that says the one has to be ‘versus’ the other. Most consultants dismiss any alternative therapies out of hand, and most alternative therapists, in my experience, are pretty keen to dismiss conventional medicine. There are moves to get the two working together, but it’s going to be a long hard slog to get the two practices talking to each other, an then keep them at it, I think.
Something to remember with regard to RA though is that forty or so years ago conventional medicine had no effective treatment. The recommended course of treatment was bed rest, which did precisely nothing to help. Even twenty or thirty years ago, you’d be put on high doses of aspirin and not a lot else. As a rule the patient went from bad to worse, as RA is generally, if left uncontrolled, a progressive disease. In the short time from then to now there are many more or less effective treatments on the market, a large number of RA sufferers have their disease halted in its tracks, and some are even in remission. The medicines might not work for ever, but, for many people, they do work. They might also cause nasty side effects, but it’s important to remember that they might NOT. Reading the list of side effects on a packet of tablets is pretty scary – what it tends not to say is, ‘Only one percent of people get this one’ or ‘only ten percent of people get that one’ and a lot of people assume that if they try the medication they’ll get ’em all.
Now anti-TNFs have come on to the market too, and the possibilities of treatment, if the costs can be brought under control, look relatively rosy. So, while I’m all for living a healthier lifestyle (if not very good at it myself, she says munching on another chocolate), and it might well have huge benefits for your RA (or rather huge benefits for getting rid of your RA), don’t disregard conventional medicine out of hand!
And finally, conventional medicine doesn’t claim to understand RA fully, know everything about it, or know how to cure it: I think anyone who does make those claims is highly suspect.
(And if you think this is controversial, just wait for the post I haven’t written yet about drug companies and how they’re actually not all a hundred percent evil)
Tags: anti-TNF, appeal, decision, Final Appraisal Document, MP, NHS, NICE, NRAS, RA, Rheumatoid arthritis, severe RA, treatment
NRAS has just announced that NICE, the so called ‘National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’ and unaffectionately known as NASTY, which is in fact a national organisation for making sure expensive drugs don’t get paid for on the National Health Service, is re-opening its enquiry into whether a patient should be allowed to try another anti-TNF drug if the first fails to work.
Admittedly this is not a total reversal of their previous Final Appraisal Document, which indicated that patients should not be allowed to try another anti-TNF if the first failed, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that a) patients who ‘failed’ on one anti-TNF frequently had success with another, as these drugs are all quite differnet and work in different ways to each other and b) a patient who had failed on this last line of treatment was likely to already be suffering from severe RA (Because in this country you can’t have an anti-TNF at all on the NHS unless your RA is severe, even though evidence suggests that the earlier you treat with an anti-TNF, the more succesful you are).
The fact that NICE have ‘backed down’ to the extent of even revisiting this is great news though, and it proves that they are forced to listen when we all stand up and shout! Thanks to NRAS and all the other organisations who appealed against the Final Appraisal Document. No thanks to my MP, who did at least stir himself to write a letter to the Minister for Health but then failed to understand her response and sent me a useless letter saying something like ‘It’s OK – this hasn’t actually been decided yet’.