All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for June 2004

House of Lords debate Prescription Plus Monitoring Scheme for MS Drugs

June 11, 2004
Multiple Sclerosis Society

On Thursday 10th June 2004, members of the House of Lords discussed the prescription plus monitoring scheme (also known as risk-sharing) for the prescription of MS drugs.  Earl Howe asked if, two years on, the scheme is working satisfactorily.

Members participating in this discussion recognised that the prescription plus monitoring scheme was an innovative approach to monitoring the cost-effectiveness of MS dugs, and agreed that the scheme has made significant improvements to access to these therapies.  It was also agreed that the scheme is continuing to progress across the UK and although this has been slower than hoped, it has has provoked major improvements in services, for example the recently published NHS guidance for treating MS.

To be eligible for MS drugs beta interferon and glatirimer acetate under the scheme, patients must meet the criteria set out by the Association of British Neurologists (ABN).  This ensures that people who will benefit from the drugs are assessed.  Earl Howe, who initiated the debate, noted that;

Despite these positive steps, Earl Howe commented that the scheme has not yet developed far enough, and he pointed to two main reasons for this; Comparisons were made between the number of people receiving drugs under the prescription plus monitoring scheme in the UK to other European countries.  Citing the European Parliament report on equal access to MS drugs and therapies in the EU, instigated by a British woman with MS, Earl Howe noted that access to services varies greatly across the European Union.

Members of the House emphasised that this scheme is a not a trial for the drugs but is a way of measuring their long-term effectiveness.  In light of this, Primary Care Trusts and health boards must be aware that even when enough people have been recruited to the research cohort, prescribing should continue for new eligible patients.

Baroness Andrews, responding on behalf of the Government, recognised that there is a great deal of progress still to be made on the scheme.  Emphasising that the scheme is long term monitoring and not controlled trials, she estimated that results from the first analysis of monitoring may be available in late 2006.

Baroness Andrews explained that initial take up of the scheme was slow mainly due to practical problems which have largely been overcome.  She assured the House that once enough people with MS have been recruited to the research cohort, Primary Care Trusts will continue prescribing as they do now.  She also estimated that there are now between 150 and 200 MS nurses in the assessment centres and reported that the Long Term Conditions Care Group is working to increase the number of neurologists.

The MS Society is pleased that the prescription plus monitoring scheme for MS drugs remains on the political agenda.  The scheme is progressing slower than hoped but the Society is continuing to work to ensure that MS drugs are available under the scheme to those people who will benefit from them.

Copyright © 2004, Multiple Sclerosis Society