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New asthma treatment set for wider NHS distribution

31st Aug 2018

A new treatment for severe asthma is set to be made more widely available on the NHS in the UK by the end of 2018.

The procedure, bronchial thermoplasty, "melts" away excess muscle tissue in the lungs using radio frequency, making breathing easier.

Previously there were strict criteria about who was eligible to receive it.

But the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) says it can be offered more routinely, after it was proved to be safe and effective.

Some people may still not be able to receive it because the final decision about whether to offer the procedure lies with local health bodies.


Who could benefit?

Some 5.4 million people in the UK have asthma - but for more than 200,000 of them (3.7%) the asthma is so severe, it can be life-threatening.

In fact, the most recent figures from Asthma UK show that 1,410 people died from asthma in 2016.

However, this "life-changing" treatment will be used only if a patient's symptoms cannot be adequately controlled with drugs, and is only suitable for adults.

Joe Farrington-Douglas, the charity's head of policy and external affairs, said: "This debilitating form of asthma is resistant to regular treatments, meaning many have to cope with terrifying asthma symptoms, such as gasping for breath, as well repeated trips to Accident & Emergency.

"Until now, this treatment has only been available for specific patients at some specialist centres, but these new guidelines could mean more people with the condition could reap the benefits."