According to a story from PharmaTimes, the pulmonary arterial hypertension drug selexipag, developed by Actelion, was unable to make the cut to obtain coverage on the NHS in England. The company criticized the decision in strong terms, saying that the ruling will create “a disparity in access to selexipag throughout the UK,” as patients living in Wales and Scotland already have access to the treatment.
About Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension
Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a disease that is characterized by abnormally high blood pressure in the lung arteries. The cause of the condition is not completely understood, but there are several risk factors, including sickle cell disease, cocaine, mitral valve abnormalities, living at high altitude, family history, prior blood clots in the lungs, COPD, HIV/AIDS, and sleep apnea. It is usually linked to arterial inflammation. Symptoms of pulmonary arterial hypertension include rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, fainting, swelling in the legs, chest pain, and fatigue. There is no cure for the condition, although there are several medications that can help treat it. A lung transplant can be effective for some cases. The exact prevalence of pulmonary arterial hypertension is not well known, but there are around 1,000 new cases per year in the US. To learn more about pulmonary arterial hypertension, click here.
In May, the Scottish Medicines Consortium agreed to support funding the drug for the NHS, but only as a combination therapy for a specific variant of the disease. Wales approved the treatment soon after, with less specific limitations, although selexipag still had to be used as part of a three part combination treatment. Selexipag was first approved in Europe in May of 2016.
Many pulmonary arterial hypertension experts also expressed dismay at the news, including Dr. John Wort, who says that selexipag offers a viable alternative to patients that are not responding to other medications. Dr. Wort is the clinical lead for the disease at the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust. Dr. Ian Armstrong of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association UK was also disappointed, and called for an urgent review of the decision to reject the drug.
Unfortunately, as of now, the new drug will not be supported by the NHS in England. Hopefully, this situation will change in future.