Thousands of British MS sufferers to be offered world-first daily pill to battle disease
Multiple Sclerosis is most common disabling neurological condition, affecting almost 100,000 BritonsNew drug approved from England and Wales but NOT Scotland
09:43 GMT, 16 March 2012
New hope: 50 young people are diagnosed with MS each week
Thousands of people with MS could benefit from the first pill to treat the disabling disease.
The NHS rationing body has approved the drug fingolimod which can halve relapses compared with standard interferon injections.
Experts hoped the once-a-day pill will replace injections and hospital infusions for at least 5,000 sufferers a year.
In its initial assessment, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) said the drug was not value for money despite admitting it works.
But after considering extra evidence on its effectiveness Nice decided to give the go-ahead for use on the NHS.
Dr Eli Silber, a consultant neurologist who leads the MS service for South London based at King’s College Hospital, and was involved in trials, said
'We’ve waited a long time for an effective oral treatment to offer patients who are continuing to relapse on first line injections.
'Today’s decision increases treatment choice. Because it is a highly effective oral agent it may change the way MS is managed in the UK forever.
'With more active forms of MS, we have a limited window of opportunity to make a difference to patients’ lives – many are young people who are raising families and starting their careers.
'I want to get appropriate patients onto this therapy as quickly as possible.'
MS is the most common disabling
neurological condition, affecting almost 100,000 Britons – 50 young
people are diagnosed each week.
involves damage to myelin, a protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres
of the central nervous system which means the body’s immune system
range from mild, occasional illness involving numbness, muscle weakness
and eye problems to rapid and severe deterioration, resulting in
On screen portrayal: Actor Martin Sheen played President Josiah Bartlet in The West Wing, who suffered physical disabilities due to MS
Trial results in the New England Journal of Medicine last year showed fingolimod, also known as Gilenya, cut relapse rates and progression of the disease.
Patients treated with fingolimod had a 50 per cent cut in disabling relapses compared with commonly used injections of beta interferon.
The chances of progressing to a worse form of the disease were cut by about a third, without significant side effects.
The new drug appears to dampen the immune response that causes nerve damage in multiple sclerosis.
The 19,000 annual cost of the drug compares with the 21,000 annual cost of hospital infusions using Tysabri, and manufacturer Novartis has devised a patient access scheme that cuts the price.
MS specialists say the drug could make overall savings for the NHS, because fewer patients would need hospital treatment costing 3,000 a time after relapse and disability is lessened.
The draft guidance from Nice means it will be funded by the NHS in England and Wales after final guidance is issued next month. The drug, made by Novartis, was rejected for NHS use by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).
Nick Rijke, Director of Policy & Research at the MS Society, said: 'We are delighted; this decision signifies a major step forward in the treatment of this devastating condition.
'Gilenya has been found to be highly effective in trials and taking a daily tablet will come as welcome relief from frequent, often unpleasant, injections.
'Making this new treatment available will increase patient choice for thousands of people with MS across England and Wales, but we’re deeply disappointed by the SMC’s decision in Scotland – and urge them to reconsider.'
Professor Carole Longson, Director of the Health Technology Evaluation Centre at NICE said: 'Following new information provided during the consultation, the analyses show that for these people (with highly active MS), treatment with fingolimod will be a cost effective option for the NHS, if Novartis provides the drug at a discounted price, as proposed in its patient access scheme.'