Thu 19 Jun 2003
A DRUG which helps multiple sclerosis sufferers will not be given to new patients because a Scottish health authority cannot afford it.
In a round of budget cuts, Greater Glasgow NHS will now not prescribe the life-saving beta interferon drug to new patients unless an existing sufferer comes off the programme or dies.
The move comes after the NHS in Greater Glasgow revealed it had a shortfall in grants of almost £11.1 million.
Lost revenue and unforeseen expenditure such as pay rises have also contributed to £7 million of budget cuts.
An NHS spokeswoman said: "Currently, around 1,400 Greater Glasgow residents have been diagnosed as having MS across all stages of the condition. Only about one in six of this population is eligible for disease modifying treatment - largely beta interferon. Of this group of about 240 people, only around one in six will achieve significant benefit from the treatment."
She said the board had a responsibility to all MS sufferers and had to target its spending on treatment.
The drug manages to slow the progress of the illness for about 15 per cent of patients.
Dr John Womersley, a consultant in public health medicine, said: "We have been conscious of our responsibility to improve care and support for all patients with MS."
About 71 patients in Glasgow use the drug at present. The health board has decided to cap this number despite government advice stating the drug should be given to anyone who needs it.
A spokesman for the MS Society Scotland described the action as "sad" and said people who would have normally been given the drug would see their condition deteriorate.
The health board said it is to embark on a review of its overall financial
plan over the coming months.
Copyright © 2003, scotsman.com