Mother of muscular dystrophy drug campaign boy welcomes 'life-changing' news


The mother of a 10-year-old boy who met David Cameron to ask for a muscular dystrophy drug has described news it could receive NHS funding as "life-changing".

Louisa Hill said she was "immensely proud" of her son Archie, who took his fight for the drug Translarna to Downing Street.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has published new guidance recommending the drug (also called ataluren) for use on the NHS.

A patient access scheme is under negotiation with the manufacturer although Nice said a deal had not yet been finalised with NHS England.

If a deal can be reached, around 50 eligible children in England will be able to take the drug, which slows down progression of the disease and can help keep the youngsters walking for longer. 

Translarna is for patients with a particular type of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which is one of the most common and severe forms of the disease.

Duchenne usually affects boys in early childhood and is usually fatal by age 30.

Translarna could help around 10 to 15% of those affected by Duchenne in childhood.

Mrs Hill said: "This is amazing, life-changing news. We can't quite believe it, and just want to thank everyone who has supported us. We are immensely proud of Archie.

"Duchenne muscular dystrophy brings so many challenges into his life - and this will become even greater in the future.

"Yet now, for the first time, there is something in our corner. We can have real hope that when, one day, there may be a drug to not only slow down the condition, but completely stop it, our son will be strong enough to benefit."

Nice said Translarna, manufactured by PTC Therapeutics, was approved for children aged five and over.

It said youngsters with the disease typically become wheelchair dependent by the age of 12 and it believed Translarna had the potential to delay the loss of ability to walk, one of the most important factors for patients and their families.

Research presented to Nice's committee predicted the drug may delay loss of walking for up to seven years.

Nice also heard how some patients were so improved on the drug they could get in and out of bed independently and go to school.

The drug's list price is approximately £220,000 per year per child.

Negotiations are ongoing between the manufacturer and NHS England to agree a cost for the drug. Any agreement would run for five years so more data could be collected. Nice would then review the drug again at the end of this period.

Sir Andrew Dillon, chief executive of Nice, said there were very few treatment options for children with Duchenne caused by a nonsense mutation and described it as a "cruel" disease.

"Because of its very high cost, it is important that details of the financial and other arrangements to enable this new medicine to be offered to patients on the NHS are discussed and agreed between the company and NHS England, and set out in a managed access agreement," he said.

"Nice acknowledges that ataluren represents a significant cost to the NHS at a time of increased pressure on funding and has considered this carefully against the uncertainties of its potential long-term benefits.

"This is why the committee has recommended the drug be made available for an initial period of five years, under strict conditions to allow more data to be gathered on its efficacy, before the guidance is reviewed and a further decision made on whether funding should be continued."

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a severe progressive disease linked to the X chromosome.

Between 60 and 70 children are born with the disease in England each year.

In around six to nine children, it is caused by a nonsense mutation.

Last year, Archie, of Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, handed a petition directly to Mr Cameron at 10 Downing Street calling on the NHS to end delays to offering Translarna.

Archie, who was diagnosed with the severe and progressive Duchenne at the age of three, also had his effort backed by England and Arsenal footballer Jack Wilshere.

The charity Muscular Dystrophy UK said families had waited almost 18 months for a decision on the drug.

It said some youngsters may have lost the ability to walk during this time, meaning they would no longer meet the Nice criteria.

Robert Meadowcroft, chief executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: "Parents of children eligible for Translarna have fought courageously for this outcome, and to give their children the chance to keep walking for longer.

"This announcement comes as wonderful news and a true victory for the families."

He said a managed access agreement would "allow us to gain a clearer picture of the full potential of Translarna, and, crucially, to buy precious time for other promising potential treatments to reach licensing stage. It is a chance to transform childhoods".

"However, we are concerned now that it could takes months for NHS England to implement the agreement and get the drug to clinic," he said.

"Having waited 18 months for a decision, this is a delay boys and their families can ill afford."