Tue June 3, 2003 10:33 AM ET
The proportion of multiple sclerosis patients on disease-modifying drugs has risen 14 percent in Britain since the launch of a government risk-sharing scheme, but treatment rates still lag behind other countries, according to a report released Tuesday.
The scheme was introduced by the government in May 2002 after the National Institute for Clinical Excellence said it was uncertain whether the drugs interferon and glatiramer acetate were cost-effective enough in the long term to justify being funded by the health service.
Under the deal, up to 9,000 patients are expected to be eligible for therapy. Their condition will be monitored and if the drugs do not meet clinical expectations, the health service will pay less to companies that market the treatments.
The report by health consultancy Isis Research, which monitors MS treatment trends, said there had been a sudden jump in the proportion of patients treated as the scheme finally started to work.
Despite this, the proportion of UK patients who had never received therapy was still only half the European average. Patients who were treated in the UK began therapy later, after an average of over 4.9 relapses, compared to 3.6 in the rest of Europe and 2.8 in the US.
The report said the UK scheme's target of starting up to 7000 patients on therapy within 18 months was unlikely to be met because of a shortage of funds, confusion over when risk sharing begins, and delays in assessing patients who might be eligible for treatment.
Isis analyst, Catherine Deleplace, said in a statement: "Some of UK doctors Isis Research spoke to have highlighted that the scheme is a new burden to the hospitals involved and is creating a particularly heavy workload for a limited number of UK neurologists, many with little experience of prescribing these drugs."
"Unfortunately, lower numbers of patients have gone on therapy so far
due to time consuming assessments and uncertainty of patients and doctors
about the drugs and their efficacy."
Copyright © 2003, Reuters