UK's NICE rejects second go with arthritis drugs

LONDON, July 21 (Reuters) - Three rheumatoid arthritis drugs should not be given to patients on Britain’s state-run health service when similar drugs have already failed, the country’s healthcare cost-effectiveness body said on Monday.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said it was not recommending Humira, Enbrel or Remicade for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis after the failure of a previous tumour necrosis factor alpha inhibitor.

Humira is sold in Europe by Abbott Laboratories Inc ABT.N, Enbrel by Wyeth WYE.N and Remicade by Schering-Plough Corp SGP.N.

All three anti-TNF medicines work in a similar way, by blocking an inflammatory protein involved in the painful joint disorder.

They have become blockbuster sellers and Abbott predicted last week its Humira medicine would generate worldwide sales of more than $4.3 billion this year.

Their use on the British National Health Service is controversial, however, because of their high cost, which can exceed 10,000 pounds ($20,000) per patient a year.

NICE agreed last year to reconsider its earlier draft guidance preventing patients from trying a second anti-TNF treatment if the first did not work.

But, in the event, the watchdog concluded in its final appraisal determination that giving a second similar medicine was not a cost-effective use of resources. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Sue Thomas)