Three NHS Centres of Excellence for the diagnosis and treatment of Behçet’s Disease (BD), a rare immune disorder, will be commissioned in April 2012.
The centres, located at Bart’s and the London Hospital, Birmingham City Hospital and Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool, will centralise drug budgets and co-ordinate treatment for the condition nationwide.
While fewer than 1,000 people in the UK suffer from BD, the new centres will provide a model for the treatment of rare diseases through multi-drug therapy.
The contract follows a successful bid by the Behçet’s Syndrome Society together with multi-disciplinary clinical teams from each hospital.
Behçet’s (pronounced Betjets) Disease is a chronic condition caused by disturbances in the immune system. Common symptoms include headaches, mouth and genital ulcers, eye inflammation and arthritis.
Symptomatic BD-related therapies include analgesics, topical steroids, NSAIDs and beta-blockers. Systemic therapies include immunosuppressants and cytotoxic drugs, as well as new biologic agents.
The centralisation of the drug budget for BD patients will ensure timely access to high-cost drugs. The centres will also provide a platform for research into new therapies for the condition.
Professor Robert J. Moots, who will lead the Liverpool centre, commented: “As cure is currently not possible, the strategy for treating BD today is to suppress disease activity as much as possible without the patients paying the price of unacceptable side-effects. This means the doctor choosing from a wide armamentarium of drugs, to tailor therapy at the right time to the right person.
“It is essential that such treatment is led by a specialist with expertise not only in BD, but also in the delivery of such medications – and often, the best care is provided by a team of specialists who are each able to bring their particular expertise with the patient at the centre.”