August 26, 2008

Minister’s Pledge on Arthritis Drugs

A Cautious welcome has been given to a pledge by Assembly Health Minister Edwina Hart to call on her officials to ensure Welsh rheumatoid arthritis patients get effective treatment.

Jenny Randerson, Lib Dem Assembly health spokeswoman, said she was pleased with the vow after flagging up concerns about new guidance on limiting drug treatments to "one go only".

Although a number of drugs are on offer to deal with the condition, the draft guidance from Nice (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence), says only one type of drug should be funded for each patient.

But the Health Minister, who is AM for Gower, has said she will look at how the findings of the Nice appraisal can be applied in Wales. The final guidance is expected in the autumn.

Mrs Randerson, who wrote to Mrs Hart, said she hoped rheumatoid arthritis patients would not be denied drugs they need. She said: "It seems bizarre that patients are blocked from receiving vital drugs just because a different drug has failed to work. The devil will be in the detail. I hope we can avoid the heartbreaking situation of patients being denied drugs that will help them manage a painful condition."

Assembly Health Minister Edwina Hart, in her reply to Mrs Randerson, added: "The All Wales Medicines Strategy Group's (AWMSG) constitution makes it clear it will complement and support the work of Nice and not in any way duplicate or conflict with its work. It would be inappropriate to ask the AWMSG to advise on the draft Nice guidance.

"I have asked health professionals at the Assembly Government to consider the detail of the Nice appraisal documents and to make recommendations on how the draft guidance might be applied in Wales to ensure the best possible clinical outcomes for patients."

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