After thousands sign charity petition, first primary progressive multiple sclerosis drug available

After thousands sign charity petition, first primary progressive multiple sclerosis drug available
© iStock/noipornpan

The first ever treatment for early primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) will be available on the NHS and has been branded a “landmark moment” by the MS Society.

Last September 2018 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) initially rejected ocrelizumab – the first and only drug treatment licensed in Europe for primary progressive multiple sclerosis – as it was considered too expensive for the benefits it can provide. In clinical trials people saw an average drop of 25% in the risk of their disability getting worse. The treatment could also delay the need for a wheelchair by seven years.

The MS Society launched a campaign calling on NICE, NHS England and the drug manufacturer Roche, to find a deal to allow access to the drug on the NHS. The campaign included a 21,000-strong petition and more than 3,000 people raising the issue with their local MP. The campaign was also backed by celebrities, healthcare professionals and cross-party politicians. Eight months later, a deal has been found, and ocrelizumab will be made available on the NHS in England – albeit only for certain people with the condition.

A landmark moment to treat primary progressive multiple sclerosis

Genevieve Edwards, Director of External Affairs at the MS Society, said: “This is a landmark moment and an incredible victory for the more than 21,000 of us who helped overturn this result. We now want to see everyone who could benefit from ocrelizumab being able to access it, with increased support for MS services to make sure this happens.

“Right now, however there isn’t enough evidence to show ocrelizumab can work for everyone, and we know the restrictions will be a massive blow for those who still don’t have any options. We’re driving research to find more and better treatments and calling for drug trials to more fully address the needs of everyone with MS, until the day we are able to stop it in its tracks.”

The world of MS

More than 100,000 people in the UK have MS and around 650 each year are diagnosed with the primary progressive form.

Ocrelizumab is the first and only treatment that can slow disability progression in this type of MS, where symptoms gradually worsen over time. It is licensed for early primary progressive MS, which is defined by how long someone has lived with MS symptoms, their level of disability, and MRI scans showing inflammatory activity.

For more information about MS, ocrelizumab, and the latest developments in research, visit The MS Society also has a free MS helpline on 0808 800 8000.

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