More MS news articles for Aug 2001

Doctors fight 'lottery' on new arthritis drug

August 12 2001 BRITAIN
CONSULTANTS are to launch a campaign this week to challenge the "postcode prescribing" that is denying thousands of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers a powerful new drug on the National Health Service.

The British Society for Rheumatology (BSR) is urging its members to fight health authorities and NHS trusts that refuse to fund TNF-alpha blockers, a drug it believes could be the greatest advance for decades in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

The row over the drug, which costs about £8,000 a year to prescribe to a patient, mirrors that over beta interferon, selectively prescribed to multiple sclerosis sufferers because of its high cost.

It emerged last week that the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice), the government watchdog that judges whether NHS drugs provide value for money, has provisionally decided not to widen the use of beta interferon on the NHS.

Rheumatologists are angry because they feel that TNF- alpha blockers, introduced 18 months ago, are being rationed by health administrators even before Nice assesses its merits - a review due in March.

"Department of Health guidance states that treatment of proven benefit should be provided where guidance from Nice is not available," said Dr Andrew Bamji, chairman of the BSR's clinical affairs committee.

Nearly 80% of rheumatologists in the UK could not prescribe TNF-alpha blockers, according to a BSR survey earlier this year. "It depends where you live," said Frank McKenna, a consultant at Trafford general hospital in Manchester who has been unable to prescribe the drug.

Copyright 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd