NICE broadens approval for AstraZeneca’s severe asthma drug

AstraZeneca’s Fasenra (benralizumab) has seen its fortunes reverse after NICE approved the drug for severe eosinophilic asthma – broadening its recommendations for the drug’s use and giving patients a potentially more convenient treatment option in comparison to rival therapies.

Guidance published by the Institute today says that benralizumab is cost-effective for use on the NHS in England and Wales by some adults who have the disease and have struggled to control it with inhalers.

It is the third biological treatment for severe eosinophilic asthma approved for NHS use by NICE, following GSK’s Nucala (mepolizumab) in December 2016 and Teva’s Cinqaero (reslizumab) in October 2017. This uncommon and relatively uninvestigated form of asthma is believed to affect around 100,000 people in the UK. Fasenra targets and depletes the immune cells (eosinophils) in the blood which cause the condition.

The drug suffered a blow in NICE’s initial draft guidance last year, which said that it was not cost effective and therefore could only be funded for patients meeting a strict set of criteria – including ineligibility for Nucala.

But after negotiations with AstraZeneca the final guidance gives Fasenra broader approval – and NICE even noted that, because it is given as an injection every four weeks for the first three doses, and every eight weeks thereafter, it is potentially more convenient than Nucala and Cinqaero, both of which are given every four weeks throughout treatment.

Meindert Boysen, director of NICE’s Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, said: “People with severe eosinophilic asthma that is inadequately controlled often have a severely impaired quality of life – it can hold them back from doing many basic daily tasks, lead to psychological problems including anxiety and depression, and leave them in constant fear of a potentially lethal asthma attack. By keeping their asthma under better control, biological treatments have transformed the lives of some of these sufferers.”

Don't miss your daily pharmaphorum news.
SUBSCRIBE free here.