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NICE reverses NHS ban on three MS drugs after price cut

Draft guidance recommends interferon beta-1b, glatiramer acetate, and interferon beta-1a for relapsing-remitting MS

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

People with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) have welcomed the reversal of a previous decision by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) not to allow them to have any of three MS drugs on the NHS, on grounds of cost. They said NICE’s decision was a ‘great outcome’ and would allow patients to find whichever drug was best suited to their needs and lifestyles.

NICE had previously deemed that the prices of interferon beta-1b (Extavia), glatiramer acetate (Copaxone), and interferon beta-1a (Avonex) meant that they were not cost-effective; but patients and other stakeholders had pointed out during the consultation process that people with relapsing-remitting MS need more treatment options.

In its new draft guidance, published yesterday, NICE said that following the drugs’ prices being reduced, it now considered them as cost-effective options for routine NHS treatment in England of relapsing-remitting MS. However, it still does not recommend Betaferon (a type of interferon beta-1b) as a treatment option for this disease, because it said it remains not cost-effective.

NICE pointed out that about 116,000 people in England have MS, of whom about 40,000 have relapsing-remitting MS. It said MS can have a negative impact on people’s ability to work, and to engage in social and family life – so it is important that treatments are available that can delay the progression of the disease, to help patients get back to their normal lives.

Phillip Anderson, head of policy at the charity MS Society, said: “People with MS told us what restricted drug options would mean for them and we’re delighted NICE has listened. 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.”

The director of NICE’s centre for health technology evaluation, Meindert Boysen, commented: “This is good news for people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. We are grateful that the companies have been able to agree reductions to the NHS prices of these drugs so they can be made routinely available and ensure that people continue to benefit from a choice of treatment.”

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