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New drugs to become available for the treatment of JIA in children

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5 April 2016
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In December 2015, NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) approved the use of four medications for children with particular forms of arthritis known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). Once a medicine is approved by NICE, it should become available to patients within 3 months.

In JIA, the joints become inflamed, swollen and stiff, and eventually become damaged if the disease process is not slowed down. Children with JIA may have difficulty with normal activities and their development may be affected. They may also have problems with their eyes, skin and bowel. 

  • The new drugs abatacept (Orencia), adalimumab (Humira), etanercept (Enbrel) and tocilizumab (RoActemra) have been recommended as possible treatments for people with polyarticular JIA – a form of JIA that affects many joints.
  • Adalimumab and etanercept have been recommended as possible treatments for people with enthesitis-related JIA – a form that affects the tendons and ligaments as well as the bones. 
  • Etanercept has been recommended as a possible treatment for people with psoriatic JIA – a form that also affects the skin.

The guidance published by NICE says that these drugs can be used if the first approach to treatment has not worked well enough. To read more about conventional therapies and newer biological therapies for arthritis, please follow this link to the Arthritis Research UK website. It is worth noting that these drugs have been used effectively in the adult population for many years.

NICE is an independent body that is responsible for improving health and social care in England and Wales. One of NICE’s roles is to evaluate medicines to determine whether they are provide good value to the NHS. NICE’s experts weigh up the benefits that a drug provides in improving the symptoms of the disease and patients’ quality of life against the potential harms of the drug. It also considers how much the medicine costs and whether its use means that the NHS may save money elsewhere. 

You can find out more about NICE’s decision on medication for JIA here. If you think one of these drugs may help your child, you should discuss this with your specialist. A leaflet about etanercept is available from our website; leaflets about the other drugs are being developed.

To find out more about growing up with JIA and for practical advice to relieve the symptoms, follow this link to further information on the Arthritis Research UK website.