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Vifor Pharma's Veltassa wins UK NICE's backing for reducing potassium in blood

The U.K. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, a health cost watchdog, recommended Vifor Pharma AG's Veltassa for treating hyperkalemia, or elevated potassium levels in the blood, in adults.

NICE's endorsement for Veltassa, or patiromer, is for adults with persistent hyperkalemia and stages 3b to 5 chronic kidney disease or heart failure. These patients should also have a potassium level of at least 6.0 millimoles per liter, not be taking a certain type of medication for regulating blood pressure, and not be on dialysis treatment. Veltassa may also be used in an emergency setting for acute life-threatening hyperkalemia.

Normal levels of potassium are essential for the human heart and muscles to function properly, making hyperkalemia a potentially life-threatening condition.

People with kidney disease are at risk for hyperkalemia as the kidneys are unable to remove excess potassium in the blood. If left untreated, hyperkalemia may result in cardiac arrest and death.

Clinical studies have shown that Veltassa lowers serum potassium, although there is no sufficient evidence that it extends life or improves quality of life, NICE noted.

The U.K. watchdog's appraisal committee concluded that treating hyperkalemia with Veltassa was likely to represent a cost-effective use of resources of England's National Health Service, the country's state-run healthcare system.

Previously, NICE advised against the use of Veltassa due to a lack of clinical and cost-effectiveness data. The new recommendation follows new evidence and a discounted price of the therapy.