More MS news articles for December 2000

D-day nears for MS drugs

Sunday, 10 December, 2000, 23:28 GMT

An advisory committee will consider this week whether two multiple-sclerosis drugs should be available on the NHS.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) is to meet on Wednesday to hear the evidence for copaxone and beta-interferon.

Copaxone is newly licensed in the UK, allowing Nice to decide if it should be made available.

Nice will also consider an appeal over whether to license beta-interferon after a previous decision not to recommend it to NHS doctors for use.

'Drug is effective'

The MS Society is calling for both drugs to be made available.

A spokesman said the delays meant patients have missed out.

"This process has been going on for about a year, and there are undoubtedly people who should have received the drug during that period.."

Copaxone and beta interferon both act to reduce relapse rates for MS patients.

Trials of copaxone in America have suggested it is effective in helping MS patients.

Beta interferon has already been considered by Nice.

Its original verdict was that the drug should not be made widely available on NHS prescription.

It said the drug's benefits were not clear cut enough to prove it was cost effective.

New decision awaited

Nice's appeal system will now re-consider whether beta interferon should be licensed, and a decision is likely in January.

Multiple sclerosis affects 85,000 people in the UK.

Sufferers see their condition flare up and calm down, and can have a range of symptoms including vision problems, muscle weakness and difficulty co-ordinating movements.

A spokesman for the MS Society said: "We take the view that both drugs should be provided. They are the only drugs which have an effect on the course of MS rather than treat its symptoms."

And he added there were many testimonies to the effectiveness of relapse reducing drugs.

"We can point to lots and lots of people who've said this drug changes their lives."