Monday, June 24, 2002
DRUGS for multiple sclerosis sufferers could cost NHSTayside up to £3 million a year, writes Marjory Inglis, medical reporter.
The news sparked an angry outburst from a leading Dundee GP today, concerned about the long-term effects on local budgets of Scottish Executive decisions.
Dr Charles Carney, chairman of Dundee Local Health Care Co-Operative, which represents every family doctor surgery in the city and other community-based services, spoke out at a meeting of his organisation in Kings Cross Hospital.
He was reacting to a comment by colleague Sheilagh McFarlane, who said the estimated costs of Beta Interferon in Tayside had been given as between £1.7 million and £3 million per annum.
Pharmacist representative on the LHCC board, Mr Mike Carson, said the Scottish Executive had recently taken a decision to fund a trial of Beta Interferon and for the initial period of the trial the cost of drugs would be met by the Scottish Executive and the drugs industry.
Thereafter, local heath boards would be expected to pick up the tab for the drugs, he said.
Mr Carson said there was an issue around the numbers of people with MS in Tayside.
Either the Scottish Executive had vastly underestimated the instances of MS in Scotland, or Tayside genuinely had a massive proportion of the Scottish total.
He said he had spoken to the specialist nurse for MS at Ninewells and they already had two thirds of the numbers that the Scottish Executive had given as the total population of MS sufferers in Scotland.
"This potentially has huge implications for us," said Mr Carson. He said it would have the potential to "wipe out" monies for other projects and would have a massive impact on Taysideís prescribing budget. Dr Carney said that was definitely the case, particularly if they were looking at a figure of £3 million a year.
"This highlights the whole issue of how politicians will say they are doing all these wonderful things for patients, but donít make it clear and explicit that funding has to come from within existing resources, which means health boards then have to cut other services to meet these demands."
Earlier this year the Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm signalled an end to what is known as the "post code lottery" of prescribing for MS patients. Beta Interferon costs around £8000 a year per patient, and while some health authorities already provided that funding, others did not.
In Tayside the pattern had been to fund the drug in only a handful of cases.
Previously a Ninewells-based neurologist warned that the drugs were not a cure for the debilitating disease but could vastly improve the quality of life of those living with the disease who responded to the treatment.
Not every person with MS does respond and the problem for doctors is
that they cannot anticipate in advance who will and will not respond to
the drug treatment.
© D.C. Thomson & Co. Ltd 2002