'Wonder' drug saved my life... I'd be horrified it wasn't available on NHS
AN asthma sufferer who says her life has been turned around by a "wonder drug" said she was horrified by news it may no longer be given out on the NHS.
Sophie May spent six months battling to get injectable prescription medicine Xolair, after her condition had put her in intensive care twice.
The drug aims to reduce the number of attacks in people who suffer from allergic asthma and Sophie, 23, first heard about it from a magazine article in early 2007.
But she initially 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 the age of 12 and, a month later, Sophie received her first injection.
But NICE has now recommended the drug is no longer given out on the NHS. It is understood this is because it feels the treatment is no longer "cost-effective".
A final decision will not be made in early 2013 but Sophie, whose condition left her using a wheelchair at one stage, said a reversal of NICE's 2007 decision did not bear thinking about.
She said: "I know that, without Xolair, I wouldn't be alive today.
"I've been using it ever since I was first given it in 2007 and I'm told to still use for the foreseeable future.
"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 commenced, Sophie had been struggling to cope with her asthma from the age of 12.
She would suffer severe attacks, with the weather, dust, smoke and forms of physical activity among the numerous triggers.
Sophie, of Howard Close, Long Eaton, said her trips to hospital could last anything from one night to one week and, to help her cope with the attacks, she was put on several medications – including steroids.
But the medication was also having an impact on her life, with side-effects including weight gain, suppressed immunity, hormone disorders and the failure of her adrenal glands.
At 14, she was rushed to the intensive care unit at the hospital twice in the space of three months and on both occasions was only released after life-saving spells on a ventilator.
Since then, the former pupil at Friesland School, Sandiacre, said the drug has allowed her to go to university, graduate and marry her partner, Martin, 24.
Sophie has had other health complications in the past year, including a collapsed lung and the development of Addison's Disease – a rare disorder of the adrenal glands
But she said those complications had not affected her asthma.
She said: "That means I've not been in hospital as much as I would have been. That's why I really hope Xolair does not become unavailable for people."
Neil Churchill, chief executive of charity Asthma UK – which has supported Sophie – 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."