Hope for Leeds man who faced 17 years of skin issues as innovative jab approved

John Hayes. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
John Hayes. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
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Having suffered with painful, itchy hives for 17 years, John Hayes was resigned to a life of managing his skin.

The 46-year-old, from Leeds, suffers with Chronic Spontaneous Urticaria (CSU), a condition that affects more than 19,000 people in West Yorkshire and has been treated with often ineffective antihistamines for more than 50 years.

John Hayes' hand at the height of his CSU symptoms.

John Hayes' hand at the height of his CSU symptoms.

But John, a barrister, has seen “life-changing” results through a new jab called Xolair (omalizumab) which has now been recommended for use in severe cases by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) this month.

It is thought that CSU, for which existing H1-antihistamines and other drugs only help around half of patients, can have a greater impact on quality of life than skin conditions such as leprosy and can lead to depression.

John mainly suffered the stinging CSU rash on his hands until he was introduced to the new treatment in 2013 by a consultant dermatologist.

“It could keep me awake at night and make me feel very tired and yet you have got to keep functioning – somehow life goes on,” he said. “The really depressing thing was the thought that there wasn’t any sort of effective treatment.”

The fact that Xolair, which has left John symptom-free, has been given the green light has been welcomed by patients and clinicians in Leeds.

John said: “When I remember what life was like with the condition, it was awful. Now I feel like I’ve got my life back.”

CSU ‘flare ups’ can lead to patients missing work as they can often result in unpleasant deep tissue swelling.

Dr Sinisa Savic, consultant immunologist at Leeds St James’s Hospital, said the news on Xolair was an “important step forward” for patients.