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Access to medicines

Little progress has been made in the quest for new treatments + cures 

There have been a handful of new drugs, but they can only be accessed by a small number of people and there have been very few new classes of drug – of the kind that can radically change outcomes.  

Biologics can be life-changing but only if people can access them 

The arrival of new biologic treatments has completely changed the outlook for many people with severe asthma. Yet access to these biologic treatments remains stubbornly low; our analysis estimates around 46,000 people eligible are still missing out. In fact, the UK ranks second from the bottom when compared to similar European countries, despite a government commitment to increase access to them.   

Antifibrotics need to reach more people with ILDs 

Antifibrotics for Interstitial lung disease (ILDs) can help slow the development of scar tissue in people’s lungs and help improve quality of life. But, at the moment, they can only be prescribed to people whose lung function is within a set range. Many people have to wait until their condition has deteriorated before being prescribed these drugs.  

More funding for lung research to speed up access  

The £47m of public funding spent on lung research in the UK amounts to less than 2% of the £2.56 billion invested in health research each year.3 With lung disease accounting for 6%4 of the impact of all diseases and 20% of deaths5 in the UK, the level of under-investment is significant. 

We need change 

Policy makers should: 

  • Triple public funding for lung research to £150 million each year, to spearhead the quest for life changing drugs and treatments.  
  • The government must recommit to bringing access to biologics for people with severe asthma in line with other European countries. 
  • The Accelerated Access Collaborative should include antifibrotics for ILDs in their next rapid uptake programme and NICE should change their guidleines to match European eligibility.  

I relied on steroids to stabilise my condition, but the side effects were unbearable. I would be on steroids for less than a week and put on half a stone in weight. The changes in my mood were so intense and horrible I’m surprised my husband stuck by me. I’d wake up each morning and not know who I would be that day – irritable, teary, angry, moody. 

That’s all changed since I started on biologic drugs. I noticed a huge improvement almost immediately and have only needed two courses of steroids since starting on biologics. It’s not an exaggeration to say this medication has been lifechanging. Asthma no longer dominates my life."

Jo, Bristol