More MS news articles for Jan 2002

NHS to pay for MS drugs only if they work

Jan 26, 2002

Multiple sclerosis patients are to get expensive drugs on the NHS under a groundbreaking scheme in which the manufacturers will only be paid in full if the treatment lives up to its promise.

It will be the first time pharmaceuticals companies have accepted a payment mechanism that leaves them to carry the risk of whether the treatment is successful. The model could be applied to other drugs and treatments.

Under the 10-year agreement, to be announced shortly, the NHS will pay the full Pounds 6,600-Pounds 12,000 a year price for Beta-interferon and glatiramer acetate. But the health department said the patients to whom the drugs were given would be monitored and an assessment made of whether the drug was working. If it was, payments would be continued in full. If not, they would be reduced on a sliding scale.

Paul Woodward, managing director of Schering Healthcare, one of the companies involved in talks, said final details of the "risk sharing" scheme had still to be settled but that discussions were at "an advanced stage".

With 13 years' experience of the product, Betaferon, in the US, he said: "We have good evidence of the efficacy of the product and what the outcomes for particular types of patients look like."

The treatment reduces the frequency of relapses in the minority of MS patients who have the relapsing-remitting form of the disease. Even for them, it does not work in every case.

Schering and the other companies, in effect, would be helping ensure the right patients were selected for treatment and then guaranteeing the drug's performance against agreed outcomes. Mr Woodward said: "In England and Wales we think between about 7,500 and 9,000 patients would benefit in total, not all the 84,000 patients with MS."

If over the planned 10-year life of the agreement a better treatment emerged, he said, "the scheme would probably be put to bed".

One senior government health adviser said: "This could well be a model not just for the purchase of other drugs but for buying other types of health care. It could have all sorts of applications."

It is not yet clear whether all four of the manufacturers - which include Biogen, Teva and Serono - will take part. But Glyn Wright, managing director of Teva, which makes glatiramer acetate, said the scheme would "reduce the risk for the NHS that the treatments will underperform and put the risk back on the companies. We are hopeful of being able to reach agreement."

The deal has been put together after the National Institute for Clinical Excellence ruled that the treatments were not cost-effective enough for the NHS to adopt them routinely. It urged the health department to find a way of delivering them more cost- effectively.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society said the arrangement would be "good news for many people with MS". It would, however, come too late for those who had become too disabled to qualify for treatment while Nice had been making its assessment.

Copyright: The Financial Times Limited