The Royal National Institute of Blind People has revealed that patients in England with severe refractory uveitis will now have to go to Scotland or Wales to get appropriate treatment as NHS England as refused to fund anti-TNF treatments (Humira and Remicade).
According to the charity this refusal only applied to England as treatment is available in Scotland and Wales. The charity further said that no new patients can access these treatments except for those who are already on anti-TNFs for this condition.
Uveitis is swelling of the middle layer of the eye, called the uvea or uveal tract and it can lead to loss of peripheral and central vision, or cause blurred or cloudy vision. In severe cases, the patient can suffer from loss of sight.
The drugs can cost up to £10,000 a year if bought privately, but NHS England has said that patients do have the option to go for the individual funding request (IFR) route. However, the patient must be significantly different from others with refractory uveitis, for example, they would need another condition (comorbidity). The severity of refractory uveitis on its own will not be enough to qualify.
Representative of leading eye doctors in the UK – The Royal College of Ophthalmologists – says that it was ‘deeply concerned’ by the situation as the decision means that England is ‘now one of the few countries in the world that does not use anti-TNF treatments for uveitis.’
Maria Dawson, the RNIB’s Eye Health Campaigns Officer said that NHS England’s decision is ‘totally unacceptable’. The charity are considering legal action over NHS England’s decision not to recommend use of drug Humira and Remicade.