NICE approves more treatments for MS

Beta interferons and glatiramer acetate are now options for routine NHS prescribing in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) after companies reduce prices.

MS is a chronic, lifelong and disabling condition affecting the brain and spinal cord. It is estimated that around 116,000 people in England are affected, of whom about 40,000 have relapsing-remitting MS. | ZEPHYR/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
MS is a chronic, lifelong and disabling condition affecting the brain and spinal cord. It is estimated that around 116,000 people in England are affected, of whom about 40,000 have relapsing-remitting MS. | ZEPHYR/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

NICE's original technology appraisal guidance on beta interferons and glatiramer acetate for the treatment of MS, published in 2002, concluded that these drugs were more clinically effective than best supportive care, but were not a cost-effective use of NHS resources. The drugs were available on the NHS through the Department of Health's Risk Sharing Scheme which monitored their effectiveness. 

The relevant pharmaceutical companies have since reduced the NHS prices allowing NICE to recommend them as cost-effective treatment options for routine prescribing in MS. 

Approved indications

Interferon beta-1a (Avonex and Rebif) and glatiramer (Brabio and Copaxone) are recommended as treatment options for patients with relapsing-remitting MS.

Interferon beta-1b (Extavia) is recommended as an option in patients with relapsing-remitting MS who have had two or more relapses within the last two years or in patients with secondary progressive MS with continuing relapses.

The approval of these drugs for NHS use was granted on the condition they are issued in agreement with the commercial arrangement (simple discount patient access scheme).

Excluded product

Betaferon, another brand of interferon beta-1b, is not recommended within its marketing authorisation as an option for treating MS since its cost-effectiveness estimate is considered by NICE to be higher than is acceptable.

Commenting on the guidance, Phillip Anderson, Head of Policy at the MS Society, said: 'This decision means people can continue to access a wide range of MS treatments. It’s vital that individuals have that choice, so they can find what best suits their needs and lifestyles. This is a great outcome and we’ll keep working to make sure everyone with MS can get the right treatment at the right time'.

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