MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS UP TO 9,000 PATIENTS TO RECEIVE CONTROVERSIAL TREATMENT
Feb 4, 2002
By NICHOLAS TIMMINS
The National Health Service is to spend more than Pounds 50m a year on a controversial treatment for sufferers of multiple sclerosis in a ground- breaking deal that will see the drugs manufacturers' carry a share of the risk of whether the treatment works.
Today, health authorities will be told details of the scheme, which will benefit 7,500 to 9,000 multiple sclerosis sufferers - those among the 84,000 MS victims who have the relapsing-remitting or secondary progressive form of the disease.
Most of the patients will be followed up for 10 years to see if the treatments provide the benefits that the manufacturers claim. If they do not, the price the NHS pays will be reduced on a sliding scale to ensure that the NHS investment is cost-effective.
The drugs - beta interferon and glatiramer acetate - reduce the frequency and severity of relapses for a time, significantly improving quality of life for MS sufferers. It is not clear, however, if they slow the disease's progression. In addition, they do not always work, even in the group of patients for whom they are suitable.
All four manufacturers - Biogen, Schering, Teva and Seronon - are understood to have agreed to take part in the risk-sharing deal, supplying the drug to the NHS at an annual cost ranging from Pounds 5,823 a patient a year for Teva's product Copaxone to Pounds 8,942 for the higher dose of Rebif made by Seronon.
Those prices are already lower than the Pounds 6,000 to Pounds 12,000 a year being charged by the manufacturers 12 to 18 months ago. That means the treatments remain more expensive than in some other countries. But according to the Department of Health it will still make the drugs cost-effective for the NHS if they live up to their promise. If they do not, the effective price will be lowered.
Although the deal is a one-off, department
officials believe it could form a model that would allow the risk of whether
other treatments work well to be shared between the manufacturer and the
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