Monday September 25 2:10 PM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - Research to be published this week is expected to show that early use of large doses of beta interferon can slow or even halt the progress of multiple sclerosis, an activist group said Monday.
The finding, due to be published in the New England Journal of Medicine (news - web sites) this week, underscores the value of the drug, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Society, which is fighting plans to curb its use in Britain.
"The bottom line is that there is increasingly evidence that the sooner you can get to people with this treatment, the better the outcome," said David Harrison, a spokesman for the society.
A recent meeting of MS experts in Paris concluded, after studying the trial data, that newly diagnosed patients should be given large doses of the drug, he said.
Publication of the latest research will fuel controversy in Britain where the National Institute of Clinical Excellence watchdog has proposed beta interferon should not be prescribed to new MS patients on the state-run National Health Service.
The MS Society, together with the makers of the drug, Schering and Biogen, launched appeals of the NICE stance at the end of last week.
Beta interferon, which costs about $14,500 per patient per 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 advocates argue it is effective in reducing
the frequency of relapses for many patients.