After 21,000 people signed a charity petition, the first primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) drug has been made available on the NHS.
Roche’s Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) is the first and only treatment licensed in Europe for primary progressive MS, but was initially rejected by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) due to being considered too expensive for the benefits it can provide.
The availability has been branded a “landmark moment” by the MS Society, as clinical trials saw an average drop of 25% in the risk of disability getting worse, as well as the treatment being able to delay the need for a wheelchair by seven years.
The campaign which got the drug to the NHS was launched by the MS Society, calling on NICE, NHS England and the drug manufacturer Roche, to find a deal to allow access to the drug.
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.”
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.