More MS news articles for Feb 2002

MS drugs to be made available

4 February 2002

The Department of Health (DoH) announced today that disease modifying drugs will be made available to people with MS in the UK. The drugs will be available through a risk sharing scheme with the pharmaceutical companies.

The DoH scheme allows people with MS to receive the drugs on the NHS providing they meet the Association of British Neurologistsí (ABN) guidelines (listed on the information sheet below) and agree to be monitored over an extended period.

Prescribing of drugs will be carried out by neurologists with an expertise in MS. This may mean that people with MS will be treated in hospitals other than the one they normally visit.

Click here for further information on Health Risk Sharing Scheme

Click here for the Department of Healthís press release

Click here for the MS Trustís press release

Click here for the joint MS Trust, MS Society/ABN/UKMSSNA press release

Department of Health Risk Sharing Scheme

Department of Health Risk Sharing Scheme



The Department of Health (DoH) has announced a risk-sharing scheme to make the disease modifying drug therapies, beta interferon and glatiramer acetate available to people with MS across the UK. All those with relapsing/remitting MS, and those with secondary progressive MS in which relapses are the dominant feature, who meet the criteria laid down by the Association of British Neurologists (ABN) will be eligible for the drugs. The scheme involves a sharing of the financial risk between the NHS and the participating pharmaceutical companies.

Key elements of the scheme:


Some specialist centres already have the resources and infrastructure to manage this scheme and treat the increased numbers of people eligible for drug therapies. Other centres do not. Prescriptions under the scheme may be initiated from 6 May 2002, and as soon as possible after that for centres where arrangements are not yet in place.

The shortage of specialist neurologists and nurses will mean that not everyone can be assessed immediately for treatment.

We will be regularly updating our website as further information is available.

Press Release 4 Feb 2002 - Department of Health

4 February 2002
Department of Health
Press Release


Agreement follows recommendation from NICE

From May this year, patients with multiple sclerosis across the UK are likely to benefit from treatment with the drugs beta interferon and glatiramer acetate on the NHS as part of a unique 'payment by results' agreement between the Department of Health and five pharmaceutical companies.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) today published its Final Appraisal Determination on the effectiveness of Beta Interferon and glatiramer acetate. NICE has found that on the basis of current prescribing mechanisms, these drugs are not cost-effective for use on the NHS. However, in their initial findings (the Provisional Appraisal Determination, published in August 2001), NICE recommended that:

"...the Department of Health...and manufacturers might usefully consider what actions could be taken, jointly, to enable any of the four medicines appraised in this guidance to be secured for patients in the NHS in England and Wales, in a manner which could be considered cost-effective."

Following those considerations, the Department of Health, drug manufacturers and patient bodies have agreed on an innovative way of securing beta interferon on behalf of NHS patients. It will ensure that those patients who meet criteria devised by the Association of British Neurologists (ABN), including those with the relapsing/remitting form of MS and those with secondary progressive MS in which relapses are the dominant feature, can be prescribed these drugs on the NHS in a cost effective way:

Eligible patients will be called up by specialist neurologists for assessment to confirm that they meet the ABN criteria and that they will benefit from using the drugs. It is probable that most eligible patients will already be under the care of a specialist neurologist who will arrange this assessment.

Once the patients have been assessed they will then be prescibed the drug which is most likely to be clinically effective for them.

All patients meeting the criteria will be thoroughly assessed to establish the extent of their disability. This is necessary to provide a baseline to monitor the patientís progress with the treatment. Generally, patients will then be seen each year for a further assessment of their condition.

Implementation of the scheme will be a major undertaking and it may take some time before all potentially eligible patients can be assessed. To help with implementation all the companies involved have agreed to help fund some of the additional specialist nurses who will be needed.

Groups of patients will be monitored over the lifetime of the scheme and costs to the NHS will be adjusted according to whether expected patient benefits are realised. Cost of treatment in a full year could be in the order of £50 million.

Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts will be expected to fund these treatments out of their general allocations which are increasing in real terms by an average 7.2% next year. Funding treatments under the scheme is a statutory obligation.

Welcoming today's agreement, Health Secretary Alan Milburn said:

"Today we can go a long way towards ending the uncertainty that has affected thousands of people with MS. For years they have suffered from the legacy of postcode prescribing.

"Beta Interferon has a unique history which demands a unique solution. Uncertainty about the effectiveness of treatment for MS has led to thousands of patients missing out. Now, following advice from NICE that the Government and pharmaceutical companies should find a way to make these drugs more cost effective, a solution has been found.

"Negotiations have produced this innovative scheme involving payment by results. Patients will be monitored to see whether the drugs are working for them. Prices will be reduced if patients donít benefit as anticipated."

"Consultant neurologists will have a choice of treatments for their patients. We are also introducing statutory obligations to ensure decisions by neurologists are backed up with funding so that these patients get the drugs they need.

"I would like to thank the Association of British Neurologists, the Association of Specialist MS Nurses, the UK Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Multiple Sclerosis Trust who have been fully involved in the development of the scheme and have given valuable advice on implementation."


Note to Editors

Press Release 4 Feb 2002 - MS Trust

4 February 2002


The MS Trust reacted very positively to the announcement by the Department of Health (DoH) of a risk-sharing scheme to make disease modifying drug therapies available to people with MS in the UK. The MS Trust will be working closely with the DoH to ensure that the necessary structures are in place to enable this initiative to work effectively.

Christine Jones, Chief Executive of the MS Trust said: "We welcome this initiative and are glad that the DoH has provided a solution to what was becoming an intractable problem. At long last people with MS in the UK will have the same opportunities as citizens of other countries. However, sadly, for some people, this announcement will come too late and their disease will have progressed past the point where they are eligible for treatment.Ē

The DoH scheme allows people with MS to receive the drug on the NHS providing they comply with guidelines set out by the ABN (Association of British Neurologists), and agree to be monitored over an extended period.

The scheme will be co-ordinated by a research department, and the MS Trust will be working with the DoH to recruit this team. An advertisement concerning applications for this appointment will appear shortly.

For people with MS it is going to take some time for the Neurology centres across the UK to set up the systems to administer this scheme, but it is hoped that all centres will be operating by May 2002. Resources are going to be an issue and the MS Trust will be monitoring the situation to ensure that the scheme is put into place across the UK. The fact that it does have statutory backing is clearly important in this context.

To handle individual queries the MS Trust will be hosting a chat-room on their website on Wednesday 13 February, from 10am to 7pm. Anyone with an interest in MS can put their questions to a team of experts or look for up to date information on

Alternatively an information sheet on the scheme can be obtained by ringing the MS Trust on 01462 476700 or sending an email to


Notes to Editors:

For further press information, please contact:

Martine Packer
Packer Forbes Communications Limited
53 Cavendish Road
SW12 0BL
Tel: 020 8772 1551
Fax: 020 8772 1552

Press Release 4 Feb 2002 - ABN/MS Society/MS Trust/UKMSSNA

4 February 2002


Following the Department of Healthís announcement today, this statement was issued jointly by the Association of British Neurologists, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the MS Trust and the UK MS Specialist Nurses Association:

We warmly welcome the Department of Healthís scheme. While NICE has been evaluating the new disease modifying treatments for MS over more than two years, we have advocated that these drugs should be available to patients in the UK.

We intend now to work closely with the Department to help ensure the scheme is effectively implemented. This will be a major undertaking. There will be heavy demand on health authorities and primary care trusts to fund the treatments. That must not compromise services to other NHS patients, including those with MS for whom the drugs are not suitable.

The new scheme will mean that as many as 20 to 30,000 MS patients may need to be assessed to identify around 10,000 expected to be eligible under the ABN guidelines.

To avoid causing distressing delays to patients, this will require major expansion of neurological services. Additional sessions will be needed for neurologists, MS specialist nurses, medical secretaries and other support staff. We understand the funding to do this has been agreed nationally and will be implemented locally to allow neurologists to assess all potentially eligible patients, treat those who are eligible, and then follow them up over the next 10 years to assess their progress.

We know that the Department intends to ensure that the required additional therapies and infrastructure are provided through health authorities and primary care trusts without compromising existing services. Neurological services are already very stretched, with outpatient waiting times more than six months in many areas and double that in some. Our organisations will cooperate fully in the scheme and expect to play an active role in monitoring and feeding back information through regular meetings with the Department.