29th September 2000
Thank you for your letter of 6th July enclosing correspondence from your constituent [my name and address] about beta-interferon and its prescription both for patients with the relapsing-remitting form of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and now for the secondary progressive form of the disease. Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying.
It is because there appeared to be genuine uncertainty over the appropriate use of beta-interferon, which was reflected in different prescribing patterns across the country, that we asked the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) to conduct an authorative appraisal of the evidence on beta-interferon as part of its first appraisal programme.
We must stress that NICE has not yet issued any guidance on the use of beta-interferon in MS. As part of the appraisal process NICE has circulated its Final Appraisal Determination (FAD) to patient groups, professional groups and manufacturers. All were given 10 days to appeal. Appeals can be rejected, upheld, or (in the evnt of significant new evidence) suspended. If an appeal is upheld or suspended NICE's appraisal committe will be asked to review their conclusions and the decision of the appeal.
The outcome of the appeals is not yet known and it would not be appropriate to pre-empt what's NICE's final guidance might say.
In the meantime helth authorities should have policies in place, which provide for individual cases to be considered on their merits, in the light of the evidence available on different forms of treatment.
Futher information about NICE can be found on the internet at www.nice.org.uk or by writing to Andrew Dillon, 90 Long Acre, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9RZ.