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NICE approves three multiple sclerosis drugs for NHS use

Thursday 17th May 2018
NICE has approved a trio of multiple sclerosis therapies for NHS use after securing price reductions for all three.
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Three new multiple sclerosis (MS) therapies are likely to be made available soon via the NHS, following a decision by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

The regulator has published draft guidance recommending glatiramer acetate - also known under its brand name Copaxone - as a treatment option for people with a type of MS called relapsing-remitting MS, as well as interferon beta-1a, which is sold by different manufacturers under the names Avonex and Rebif.

Previous draft guidance from NICE recommended only interferon beta-1b - developed by Novartis and marketed as Extavia - as a treatment for this form of MS, but manufacturers Teva, Biogen and Merck Serono have agreed to cut the prices of Copaxone, Avonex and Rebif, meaning NICE is now able to endorse them as cost-effective options.

During a previous consultation, healthcare sector stakeholders emphasised the importance of ensuring that more treatment options are made available to people with relapsing-remitting MS, a condition characterised by phases of distinct symptoms, such as pain, vision problems or difficulty keeping balance, which then fade away.

Meindert Boysen, director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation at NICE, said: "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.

"Multiple sclerosis is a lifelong condition that can have a negative impact on people's ability to work, and to engage in social and family life. Having treatments that can delay the progression of the disease is important to help patients get back to their normal lives."

MS is a chronic disabling condition affecting the brain and spinal cord, for which no known cure exists. It is estimated that around 116,000 people in England are affected by the disease, of whom about 40,000 have relapsing-remitting MS.

Written by James Puckle

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