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MS Society comments on NICE clinical guidelines for MS

Posted in Comment on 23rd Jan 2015

Recent National Institute of Health and Care Excellence Guidelines for multiple sclerosis (MS) will block access to important treatments for the condition, the MS Society has warned.

The MS Society welcomed the publication of the guidelines but continues to express concern over access to medication for people with MS. The guidelines reject Sativex and Fampyra because they have not been considered cost-effective. Sativex is a cannabis based medicine proven to relieve painful muscles spasms and stiffness, while Fampyra has been shown to improve mobility. This is particularly disappointing for people with progressive MS as these drugs represent two of only three MS specific treatments available to them.

The MS Society believes the decision to reject Sativex and Fampyra was based on a flawed assessment completed within an inappropriate process. The MS Society has urged NICE to take into account the wider cost benefit of the treatments, such as potential savings in social care costs and called on them to conduct a full technology appraisal of these medicines. The guidelines also fail to include vital references on the use of disease modifying treatments (DMTs) for MS – a significant omission, particularly given the changing landscape in this area with three new treatments licensed last year alone.

However, the MS Society has welcomed significant elements of the guidelines and recognises that NICE have listened to the MS community. For example, the guidelines now recommend that people with MS have an annual review of their treatment and care and stress that people with MS should have access to coordinated care within a team of health and care professionals. These recommendations could significantly improve the treatment, care and support that people with MS receive.

The MS Society believes that this is a significant but important step and the NHS and local authorities should commit the necessary resources to make co-ordinated, reliable care a reality. At a time of already stretched NHS budgets, delivering the guideline recommendations on patient care will be challenging without a commitment to additional investment and resource.

MS Society Chief Executive Michelle Mitchell said, “There is encouraging and disappointing news in these guidelines. Making sure that people with MS are able to access a team of health and care professionals, with a minimum annual review of their treatment and support are important steps and should not be underestimated. It is vital that these recommendations are implemented without delay.

“However, NICE’s decision to reject Sativex and Fampyra as treatment options is really disappointing. Surely we should be striving for the most innovative treatment and care to be made available to people with MS, not limiting options even further? The guidelines also fail to stress the importance of the many treatments now available for relapsing forms of MS. This will increase the risk of people with MS not receiving the right treatment at the right time.”

MS Society’s ‘Treat Me Right’ campaign found that access to treatments licensed specifically to help people manage the symptoms of MS is abysmally low: just one in 50 people with MS take these. Through the campaign, people with MS are fighting for the right treatment, at the right time, wherever they live.

New evidence on demand for Sativex

A survey of nearly 4,000 people with MS showed the huge gap between people with MS’ experience of muscle stiffness and spasms with their access to Sativex. 82% of those who currently take it consider Sativex to be essential or a high priority, but 54% of those who have experienced muscle stiffness and spasms and have never taken it.

ACNR 2015;14(6);11.  Online 23/01/15 


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