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New MS Drug too Bitter for NHS to Swallow

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The UK is virtually the only country in Europe to decide that a new pill to combat Multiple Sclerosis (MS) simply costs too much.

The drug, fingolimod, which was given preliminary marketing approval by EU drugs regulators in January of this year, has been branded as “not a cost effective use of NHS resources” by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Current treatment for MS – known as interferon therapy – is administered by injection, either in hospital or by the patient themselves at home.  But this new pill has been shown to have half the number of disabling relapses compared to interferon therapy, according to a trial published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The company that markets the drug, Norvartis, has applied for the drug to be prescribed in cases where existing treatments are having no effect.  But the £20,000 a year cost has been deemed too expensive for the NHS to fund.

This is a huge blow for the 100,000 MS sufferers in the UK, leaving some people with no effective treatment options whatsoever.  MS charities have stressed that they are ‘disappointed’ with the decision.

In Germany the health service is already paying for some 2,000 patients to receive fingolimod.  Sufferers who most benefit are those who have highly active relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS).  The drug is an immunosuppressant and most patients who’ve received the drug have seen good results, although it does have various side effects in a number of people.

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