More MS news articles for Oct 2001

MS society issues warning

Saturday, 6 October, 2001, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK

The Multiple Sclerosis Society has warned that MS sufferers in Scotland could soon be denied treatment that is "vital" to them.

The MSS said it feared the Health Technology Board for Scotland (HTBS), was planning to deny people with the illness access to beta interferon.

The society said it understood HTBS was to agree to work being produced by the board's sister organisation in England, NICE.

This would deny sufferers the drug.

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

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

Mark Hazelwood, the society's director in Scotland, said: "All the signs are there that HTBS is trying to slip this decision through with minimum debate.

"This medicine is considered to be vital to the treatment of many people with multiple sclerosis in Scotland."

The society said it was also "concerned" the board would accept NICE's findings without question.

Mr Hazelwood said: "HTBS have said they will not question the work of their English counterparts, yet senior staff at HTBS seem to be alarmingly ignorant of very valid criticisms made of NICE's work by groups including eminent doctors."

He added that the society had written to the Scottish Parliament's Health Committee to ask them to consider the procedures employed by HTBS, which it accused of being "secretive".

However, Dr Angus Mackay, chairman of HTBS, said it was too early to say what decision the board would make regarding beta interferon.

He said the board, which provides advice to NHS Scotland on the cost effectiveness of health interventions, would not simply accept NICE's findings.

Dr Mackay said: "We have made no decision whatsoever in the nature of advice we will give to the NHS here in Scotland.

"We expect NICE to report its finding next month and we will look at what it has said and done.

"We have a huge amount of respect the work carried out by NICE and will use their findings to assist us in our decision."

He said that NICE rejected the use of the drug several months ago and had been told to look at its use again after an appeal from patient organisations and pharmaceutical manufacturers.