More MS news articles for October 2000

MS sufferers in drug plea

Thursday, 5 October, 2000, 13:59 GMT 14:59 UK

Multiple Sclerosis sufferers are calling on Scottish ministers to make the prescription of a vital drug a priority.

More than 150 campaigners lobbied MSPs in their efforts to gain a pledge of increased funding for the drug beta-interferon.

It is known to slow down the disease, yet is deemed too expensive for many health boards to prescribe.

Scotland has the highest prevalence of MS in the world, with about 10,000 people affected.

It is a complex disease of the nervous system and while one person may partially lose their sight another could lose the use of their legs.

Although there is no cure for MS, beta-interferon is considered an effective treatment.

However, the cost means it is only prescribed to less than 2% of sufferers in Scotland and even then is only available to those who live under a health board which can afford it.

The Health Technology Board for Scotland was set up recently to try to end what has been described as "postcode prescribing".

Mark Hazlewood, director of the Multiple Sclerosis Society in Scotland, said: "In Scotland, whether or not you can beta-interferon depends on where you live."

He added that sufferers could get the drug in Aberdeen but not in Edinburgh, with varying degrees of availability in other parts of the country, and it was not available to most newly diagnosed sufferers.

The campaigners' case was strengthened last month following publication of the results of a clinical study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The report suggested that the earlier MS patients are given substantial amounts of beta-interferon, the greater the benefits.

Sufferer George Henderson is one of those who wants to try the drug.

"Neurologists will turn round and say it may help you and it may not, but that covers every drug that is described to you because every person with MS is different," he said.

The calls were supported by SNP MSP Tricia Marwick, who said: "We should be setting the standards in Scotland for the rest of the world."

Scottish ministers were due to discuss the issue on Thursday.