A rheumatoid arthritis drug was relaunched in the UK as a treatment for children whose lives are devastated by a severe form of the disease.
Tocilizumab is the first drug to be specifically licensed for systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (sJIA) which affects around 2,500 British youngsters.
The drug was already licensed for the treatment of adults.
Until now sJIA has mostly been treated using anti-inflammatory painkillers and steroid drugs.
Symptoms of the disease include joint pain, fever, enlargement of internal organs and a distinctive salmon-coloured skin rash.
Up to two-thirds of patients develop persistent and chronic arthritis, and half of these suffer significant disability.
Professor Patricia Woo, a rheumatology expert from Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, said: “Systemic juvenile arthritis can be a devastating disease. It strikes often very young children, causing chronic illness, pain and disability. It is hugely encouraging to have an effective medicine now available to alleviate symptoms, control disease activity and potentially hold back the worst long-term consequences of the disease.”
A Phase III trial showed that 71% of children treated with tocilizumab saw a 70% improvement after three months.
Ailsa Bosworth, chief executive of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, said: “Children with sJIA and their families can now look to a future with hope.”