Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 22:28 GMT 23:28 UK
A Scottish health board has gone against government guidelines by deciding
not to prescribe the beta interferon drug to new multiple sclerosis sufferers.
Greater Glasgow Health Board blames budget cuts for the move which has been criticised by the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
The Scottish Executive expects all NHS Boards to ensure that eligible MS sufferers receive beta interferon treatment.
But Greater Glasgow health officials say that a £7m budget cut means the drug will not be prescribed to new patients unless an existing sufferer comes off the programme or dies.
Beta interferon is used to reduce the frequency and severity of episodes called relapses but cannot reverse the condition, for which there is no known cure.
A health board spokeswoman said maintaining the existing level of funding for the Beta Interferon programme, which involves 71 people, should be seen in the context of the expanded range of services available to all 1,400 MS sufferers - not all of whom would benefit from the drug.
However, the Scottish Executive said: "This guidance makes clear that all NHS Boards are expected to make the necessary arrangements to ensure that eligible patients are able to receive beta interferon treatment."
Mark Hazlewood, of MS Society Scotland, said people would be "shocked and surprised" at the health board's decision.
He said: "The (health) minister has given a commitment that this drug should be available across Scotland on the basis of clinical need.
"Greater Glasgow Health Board is the only board - not only in Scotland but the UK - who has gone against that scheme."
MS Society Scotland urged the minister to ensure the health board made
the drug available on the basis of clinical need and not on a financial
basis, he went on.
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