Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) will have routine access to a drug that can slow disability under a deal struck between NHS England and the manufacturer Roche, paving the way for its approval by NICE.

Ocrelizumab (also known as Ocrevus) is the first treatment that can modify or change the course of the disease to be available for patients who have primary progressive multiple sclerosis, where symptoms steadily increase over a period of months or years without periods of remission.

Clinical trial results show that ocrelizumab can slow the worsening of disability in people with the condition, helping patients stay able and active for longer.

NICE reverses decision on multiple sclerosis drug

NICE has reversed its previous draft decision not to recommend ocrelizumab for treating primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) in adults.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England said: “Today the NHS is making a significant advance in the care of people living with multiple sclerosis. This latest innovative deal is further proof that companies willing to work flexibly with the NHS can secure a constructive partnership that benefits both patients and taxpayers.”

The innovative deal between NHS England and Roche unlocks the final stage of NICE’s appraisal and opens the way for access to this important treatment.

It is estimated that 10,000-15,000 people have PPMS in the UK, of whom around 2,700 people could be eligible for treatment with ocrelizumab.

Multiple sclerosis is a lifelong condition which affects the brain and spinal cord. It affects everyone differently and there are a wide range of possible symptoms.

Primary progressive MS can have a substantial impact on the lives of people with the condition and their families.

Ocrelizumab will now be routinely available for eligible adults which, given the lack of other treatments for this form of MS, is great news for patients.

Ocrelizumab is given as an infusion during an outpatient appointment once every six months and costs around £19,000 per patient per year at full price.

NHS England has secured a commercial in confidence deal with Roche after tough negotiations on both sides.

With the deal, the cost-effectiveness estimates for ocrelizumab are in the range that NICE considers an acceptable use of NHS resources.

Previous arrangements would be down to industry proposing a price where NICE say yes or no to the drug being made available. NHS England now has more direct involvement with industry, working closely with NICE, to help to find deals that work for patients and taxpayers.

A landmark moment for the MS community

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.”