The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is now backing a trio of therapies to treat relapsing remitting forms of multiple sclerosis (RRMS) after price cuts enabled the cost regulator to endorse their routine use on the NHS.

The Institute has published draft guidelines recommending Novartis’ Extavia (interferon beta-1b), Teva’s Copaxone (glatiramer acetate), Biogen Idec’s Avonex (interferon beta-1a) and Merck Serono’s Rebif (interferon beta-1a) as treatment options.

Previous draft guidance issued in December last year recommended only Extavia, but following price reductions on the other three the Committee concluded that they could also be considered value for money for the NHS.

On the downside, the Institute did not recommend Bayer’s Betaferon (a type of interferon beta-1b) as a treatment option for people with MS after concluding that it is too expensive for NHS use.

Around 40,000 people in England have relapsing-remitting MS, which is characterised by phases of distinct symptoms, such as pain, vision problems or difficulty keeping balance, which then fade away.

“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,” said Meindert Boysen, director of the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE.

“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 have access to a choice of cost effective treatments.”

“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,” added Phillip Anderson, Head of Policy at the MS Society.

Before the NICE re-appraisal Avonex, Rebif and Copaxone were available on the NHS through the Department of Health’s Risk Sharing Scheme (RSS), introduced in 2002 to secure availability of first-line disease modifying drug therapies, which has now ended.

Clinical and economic data collected during the scheme was fed into NICE’s re-appraisal of these medicines. As such, the Institute said it is undertaking a separate review of Biogen’s Plegridy (pegylated interferon beta-1a) as this was not part of the original RSS.