More MS news articles for Aug 2001

UK Group Offers Plan to Get MS Drugs to Patients

Wednesday August 8 10:38 AM ET
By Richard Woodman

LONDON (Reuters Health) - The UK Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society proposed a formula on Wednesday that might enable patients to receive therapy despite a healthcare watchdog's view that MS drugs are not cost effective.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has provisionally concluded that beta-interferon and glatiramer acetate should not yet be paid for by the state-funded National Health Service (NHS).

However, the MS Society said that the Department of Health had now agreed to meet the society to discuss the issue.

Welcoming the department's response, society chief executive Peter Cardy said, "We have outlined a proposal to Health Secretary Alan Milburn which would allow people meeting the criteria for the drugs to receive them while a rigorous scientific study of their routine use is made over a period of years."

A spokesman for the patient group told Reuters Health that one of the problems identified by NICE was that there is considerable uncertainty over which patients benefit from therapy and for how long.

To resolve these doubts, the society is proposing that up to 10,000 UK patients who meet the clinical criteria for therapy should be prescribed drugs and monitored over a number of years. "We hope this will be seen as constructive," he said.

For its part, NICE's appraisal committee has called upon the Department of Health and manufacturers to find a way for any of the MS drugs to be secured for NHS patients "in a manner which could be considered to be cost effective."

In a document published on the NICE Web site, the committee indicated this would require a significant reduction in the total cost of acquiring the drugs by the NHS in England and Wales.

Hinting at the need for more study of the drugs, it added, "The uncertainty surrounding the definition of which patients benefit and to what extent are factors which could be considered relevant in any discussions between the Department of Health and manufacturers on ways in which these medicines could be acquired cost effectively."

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said NICE's provisional recommendation was "extremely disappointing and entirely inappropriate."

It added that it was "disingenuous" of NICE to propose price cuts when company profits on medicines sold to the NHS were already strictly regulated.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited