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Crohn's disease drug ustekinumab has been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for routine use on the NHS.
The drug is marketed under the name Stelara by pharmaceutical firm Janssen and is designed for patients with moderate to severe Crohn's disease. There are believed to be more than 132,000 people with the condition - a type of inflammatory bowel disease - in the UK, of whom around 28,000 will be eligible for the newly-approved therapy.
Ustekinumab has already received NICE approval for the treatment of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. When given to Crohn's disease patients, it is able to bind to the IL-21 and IL-23 proteins that play a key role in the inflammation associated with the illness spreading around the body, causing patients often severe pain.
But by binding to these cell proteins, ustekinumab is able to stop cells from producing cytokines, subsequently preventing these inflammatory responses from spreading and reducing patients' pain levels, which could help to improve their overall wellbeing.
In particular, NICE is recommending the drug for patients for whom other treatments have failed. Sufferers can go into remission before relapsing again, but ustekinumab could help to provide longer and more sustainable periods of remission.
Professor Carole Longson, director of NICE's health technology evaluation centre, commented: "We are delighted to be able to recommend ustekinumab for routine NHS use. Crohn's disease can have a debilitating impact on a person's quality of life, from self-esteem through to experiencing regular relapses.
"Ustekinumab provides a convenient and viable option for patients with Crohn's. It is a new way of treating the disease compared to conventional treatment and can be used where other options have already been tried and stopped working."
Crohn's disease is a chronic lifelong condition with common symptoms including fatigue, stomach cramps and diarrhoea. Therefore, the newly-approved treatment has the potential to transform thousands of people's lives across the UK.
Written by James Puckle
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