More MS news articles for Nov 2001

UK watchdog NICE sticks by opposition to MS drugs

Friday November 2, 11:41 AM

LONDON, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Britain's health watchdog on Friday issued a final verdict repeating its view that costly multiple sclerosis drugs should not be given to patients on the state health service.
The Multiple Sclerosis Society accused the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) of turning its back on people with MS and said it would appeal.

The controversial stance by NICE, which had already determined that beta-interferon and glatiramer acetate were not cost-effective in earlier provisional rulings, has led the government to seek special arrangements for distributing the medicines.

The Department of Health earlier this week said it was working with industry on a plan to supply the drugs under an extended trial scheme, in a bid to defuse the situation.

Under the proposals, up to 10,000 UK patients who meet clinical criteria for therapy would receive the treatment, but a "risk-sharing" mechanism would allow for payments to firms to be scaled back if the drugs failed to help individual sufferers.

The drugs -- which cost 7,000-10,000 pounds ($10,250-14,650) per patient a year -- cannot cure MS, a debilitating disease that causes the body's immune system to destroy a sheath protecting nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis, pain and tremors.

But many neurologists believe they are effective in reducing the frequency of relapses, although there is considerable uncertainty over which patients benefit from the therapy and for how long.

Beta-interferon is made by Germany's Schering AG , Switzerland's Serono SA and Biogen Inc of the United States, while Israel's Teva Pharmaceutical Industries markets glatiramer acetate.

Currently, less than three percent of Britain's 85,000 MS sufferers receive beta-interferon, compared with 12 percent in Italy, France and Germany, and even more in North America.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited