After an agreement to lower their prices, four treatments for relapsing multiple sclerosis — Biogen’s Avonex and Merck KGaA‘s Rebif (both interferon beta-1a), Novartis’ Extavia (interferon beta 1b), and Teva’s Copaxone (glatiramer acetate) — were recommended as cost-effective and long-term therapy options within the National Health Service covering England and Wales.
The guidance decision was issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, known as NICE, and marked a change from its December finding recommending only Extavia. The discounts in prices agreed to by the manufacturers were not disclosed.
Guidance by NICE decides which treatments are funded by the National Health Service in the U.K. and made available to patients. By law, the NHS is obliged to fund medicines recommended by advisory bodies like NICE.
“This is good news for people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. 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,” Meindert Boysen, director of the center for health technology evaluation at NICE, said in a press release.
“Multiple sclerosis is 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,” Boysen added.
The draft guidance did not cover Bayer’s Betaferon, an interferon beta-1b, as a treatment option because it was considered not cost effective. Plegridy (peginterferon beta 1a), another Biogen therapy, will be evaluated separately.
Before publication of this NICE recommendation, Avonex, Extavia and Copaxone were available on the NHS through the Department of Health’s Risk Sharing Scheme (RSS) and commissioned by the NHS in England according to specific criteria, outlined here.
MS associations in the U.K. welcome the NICE decision, detailed here.
“People with MS told us what restricted drug options would mean for them and we’re delighted NICE has listened. This decision means people can continue to access a wide range of MS treatments. It’s vital that individuals have that choice, so they can find what best suits their needs and lifestyles. This is a great outcome and we’ll keep working to make sure everyone with MS can get the right treatment at the right time,” said Phillip Anderson, head of policy for the MS Society.
About 85 percent of MS patients are first diagnosed with relapsing MS, marked by relapses or exacerbations followed by periods of partial or complete recovery (remissions). Unlike progressive types of MS, relapses represent new inflammatory attacks on the central nervous system.
Avonex, Extavia and Copaxone are disease-modifying treatments designed to reduce disease activity and progression.