SATURDAY NOVEMBER 03 2001
BY NIGEL HAWKES, HEALTH EDITOR
PATIENTS with multiple sclerosis should not be given beta interferon or another new drug, glatiramer acetate, on prescription, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) said yesterday.
The decision had been anticipated, not least by the Department of Health, which on Wednesday promised MS patients greater access to the drugs by way of a “risk-sharing” scheme with the manufacturers, thus bypassing NICE.
“On the balance of their clinical and cost effectiveness” neither drug could be recommended, NICE’s final appraisal document concluded.
The Multiple Sclerosis Society announced that it would appeal against the decision. Ken Walker, acting chief executive, said: “NICE has again turned its back on people with MS and said they are not worth treating.”
Mr Walker said that the appeal would go ahead despite the Health Department’s initiative. “We must continue to challenge NICE’s decision,” he said. “It has ignored the compelling evidence of people across the world whose lives have been changed by the only drugs which can reduce the symptoms and slow the progress of the disease.”
NICE said that patients already taking beta interferon — numbering about 2,000 — could continue therapy until the time was appropriate for them to stop. The society believes that another 6,000 to 8,000 people might benefit but are not getting either drug.
The drug firms Teva and Aventis Pharma said that they would appeal.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said that the NICE recommendation was a “final bad judgment at the end of a long and costly appraisal process”.
The Association of British Neurologists
said that the conclusion reached by NICE “lacks any humanitarian dimension.
If enacted, it will single out the NHS as once more failing to meet the
standards expected from systems of healthcare in other European and North
Copyright 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd