The MS Society has said it is concerned that a proposal to withdraw five treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS) from the NHS could limit people’s ability to manage living with the condition.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has today recommended that five MS treatments should no longer be available to people in England and Wales. The disease modifying therapies (DMTs) – Avonex, Betaferon, Copaxone, Plegridy and Rebif – have now been deemed not cost effective.
People already taking these treatments will be able to continue on them but those who are newly diagnosed, or looking to change treatments, would not be offered these options. There are currently 13 DMTs available on the NHS and the MS Society estimates around 9,100 people in England are receiving the treatments which would not be available to future patients. This accounts for 42% of all MS prescriptions. If the proposals were to go ahead, 1,450 newly diagnosed patients each year could be denied what would otherwise be their treatment of choice.
Genevieve Edwards, Director of External Affairs at the MS Society, said: “While people with MS who are already receiving these treatments can be assured they won’t have to come off them, we’re worried about what this proposal means for the future of patient choice. We have made so much progress on treatment options for people with MS, and it would be a significant step backwards if people with MS were now left with less choice and potentially no effective option.
“Many people find certain treatments won’t work for them, or they may have intolerable side effects, so it’s important people can have choice about how to best manage their condition. And we know that treating people as close to diagnosis as possible can limit the effects of MS.
“We want the companies who make these drugs to keep negotiating and come to a deal with NICE and NHS England so that patients don’t lose out. Everyone with MS should be able to get fair and equal access to the right treatments at the right time.”
Natalie Kanji, who’s 36 and was diagnosed with MS in 1997, said: “I had to try five different treatments before finding the right one for me. With the first four, the side effects outweighed the benefits and I was still having relapses. I would get flu-like symptoms, muscular pain and tremors – this was getting in the way of my work and studies.
“It’s good there are so many more treatments available now than when I was first diagnosed. It means I can be in control of my MS and know that I’ve made the best choice for myself. Without these options I’d feel anxious about whether the medication was right for me.”