Tuesday March 27, 09:30 AM
Representatives of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) are criticising the government over the time it is taking the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) to reach a decision about the availability of the drug beta interferon.
Both the MS Society and the MS Research Trust are concerned that the increasing delay is resulting in some MS sufferers becoming too disabled to qualify for beta interferon treatment.
Peter Cardy, chief executive of the MS Society, said the government had "bungled" its appraisal of beta interferon. "Ministers say they regret the process taking so long but have done nothing to stop authorities ignoring existing guidance and sitting on their hands while people wait in desperation," he said.
"That does not square with the government's repeated commitment to put patients at the centre of healthcare."
Previous US research has shown that patients taking beta interferon had fewer, less severe attacks of MS and fewer hospitalisations. However, it was also found to produce side effects such as flu-like symptoms and depression.
Beta interferon was
referred to NICE for assessment in August 1999. The institute is expected
to publish guidance by November.
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