More MS news articles for July 2002

MS sufferers 'denied' new drug

Thursday, 27 June, 2002, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK

Despite the promise of new money by the Welsh Assembly, some multiple sclerosis patients have claimed they are not being prescribed the drug beta interferon.

In February, the assembly earmarked £1.7m to provide the ground-breaking drug - which can slow the progress of the illness.

But patients such as 55-year-old Alan Tinnouche said that so far the money is not reaching those who needed it.

He has been unable to get beta interferon from Dyfed Powys Health Authority despite having privately consulted a neurologist who said he was an eligible candidate.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the nervous system for which there is no cure - beta interferon has been successfully used in some cases to slow down its progression.

The assembly scheme - to allow sufferers to be prescribed beta interferon and other drugs on the NHS - was due to begin last month.

In order to qualify for the treatment patients have to be submitted for an assessment.

Mr Tinnouche - who has suffered from MS for three years - paid privately to see a neurologist in February and was told he would be suitable for the treatment.

However, he has been unable to get the drug and has had to take alternative treatments.

" I think every MS sufferer should be given the opportunity to try beta interferon to see what it can do for them," he said.

"The cost of a year's treatment of the drug would be £10,000.

"What the government has planned for heroin addicts earlier this year would have cost the taxpayer £12,000 per year.

"But it is their choice to take heroin, whereas MS sufferers - or any other disabled person - haven't got any choice in the matter."

Mr Tinnouche , who lives with his wife Caroline, is currently able to walk but he knows he will eventually be in a wheelchair.

"It will probably get worse physically, " he said.

"I don't know how I can cope mentally. Its quite frightening."

'Forgotten illness'

Mr Tinnouche has been supported by Tony Wiggins, chairman of the Cardiff Branch of the MS Society, who believes the denial of the drug is a wider problem.

"MS appears to be a forgotten illness," he said.

"The drug beta interferon had to be administered early in the diagnosis of the disease for sufferers to receive the full benefit."

Dyfed Powys Health Authority said patients will be able to get the drug "if the patient is considered eligible clinically for treatment."

Health Minister Jane Hutt said she had ordered a full inquiry into the matter to see where there were blockages in the money for the drug being distributed to MS sufferers.

She said she had met with the MS Society and neurologists when the "risk-sharing" scheme was launched in February.

"The money is there," said Ms Hutt. "The assembly has put the money in and I fully expect it to be there."