Reductions in the price of three multiple sclerosis (MS) drugs mean NICE is now able to recommend them for routine NHS funding.

NICE has published draft guidance recommending interferon beta-1b (Extavia, Novartis), glatiramer acetate (Copaxone, Teva UK Ltd), and interferon beta-1a (Avonex, Biogen Idec Ltd, and Rebif, Merck Serono Ltd) – as treatment options for people with a type of MS called relapsing-remitting MS.

Cuts to the prices of Copaxone, Avonex and Rebif has meant the NICE is now able to recommend them as cost-effective options. NICE’s previous draft guidance recommended only Extavia. Stakeholders commented during NICE’s consultation to say that people with relapsing-remitting MS need more treatment options.

Meindert Boysen, director of the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE, said: “This is good news for people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. We are grateful that the companies have been able to agree to 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.”

MS is a chronic, lifelong and disabling condition affecting the brain and spinal cord. It is estimated that around 116,000 people in England, of whom about 40,000 have relapsing-remitting MS. This is where people have phases of distinct symptoms, such as pain, vision problems or difficulty keeping balance, which then fades away.

Meindert Boysen continued:  “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."

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

The draft guidance does not recommend Betaferon (a type of interferon beta-1b made by Bayer Plc) as a treatment option for people with MS because it is not cost-effective.