A British board that recommends what treatments the National Health Service should cover has advised the system to use only Extavia (interferon beta 1b) as a treatment for MS patients who continue to have relapses.
Cost was at the heart of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s preliminary decision, which applies to both relapsing-remitting and secondary progressive MS patients. Five therapies that are as effective as Extavia are more expensive, according to the organization, known by its acronym NICE.
The five therapies it recommended against were Copaxone (glatiramer acetate) and four beta interferon therapies besides Extavia — Avonex, Betaferon, Plegridy, and Rebif. But it said it is not calling for the National Health Service to deny these treatments to patients already using them.
MS advocacy organizations expressed disappointment with the preliminary recommendations, saying they would limit patients’ choice. Final recommendations are expected in spring.
Patients on Copaxone, Avonex, Betaferon, Plegridy or Rebif should continue taking them unless their neurologist decides otherwise, NICE said.
The organization said it made its recommendations after looking at the cost-effectiveness of the six therapies it was considering endorsing.
All were equally as effective at reducing relapses and slowing the progression of MS, it said, but Extavia was less expensive.
The U.K. MS Trust said it was disappointed with the decision.
“We do not believe that NICE’s recommendations are in the best interests of people with MS” or the National Health Service, it said in a news release. “We strongly believe that all current treatments should remain available as treatment options for all eligible patients.”
Patients, doctors, caregivers and others can comment on the recommendations through Jan. 24 at this link.
The institute will meet again on March 6 to review the comments it has received and discussions it has had with the drugs’ manufacturers. It will make final recommendations after that.
The MS trust said the preliminary recommendations fail to address several issues, including:
- how healthcare professionals administer different drugs
- how each drug matches the different lifestyles of people with MS, and
- how the side effects of each drug can affect patients differently
“We are fully committed to supporting people with MS to get the best and most appropriate treatment for them,” the MS Trust said. It said it will submit a response to the recommendations to help ensure that patients’ voices are heard.