A leading health charity has welcomed the watershed decision to approve the first ever drug used in the treatment of progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) in Scotland.
Ocrelizumab (Ocrevus) has been given the green light by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) for treating primary progressive MS where the condition is still early in terms of duration and disability and shows evidence of inflammation.
It becomes the first drug to be made available on the NHS in Scotland for primary progressive MS. There are currently 13 treatments available for people with the relapsing form of the condition.
READ MORE: https://www.scotsman.com/health/groundbreaking-stem-cell-therapy-for-multiple-sclerosis-recommended-for-use-in-scotland-1-5035721
This news follows an SMC decision to make ocrelizumab available on NHS Scotland for people with relapsing MS in December 2018 as well as the approval, in May 2019, for its use for people with primary progressive MS in England.
More than 11,000 people in Scotland have MS and around 65 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. It is licensed for early primary progressive MS, which is defined by how long someone has lived with MS symptoms, their level of disability, and MRI scans showing inflammatory activity.
Karine Mather was diagnosed with primary progressive MS six years ago and she, and her wife Sarah, have seen their lives impacted hugely since then. They reflected on what this decision will mean for people in a similar situation in the future.
She said: “This is great news for the MS community as people diagnosed with early primary progressive MS in Scotland will now be able to access a treatment for the first time.
“Primary Progressive MS has had a massive impact on my life and on the lives of my wife and family.
“In the space of five years I went from walking with a slight limp and working full-time to using a powerchair, unable to work and needing round the clock care from my wife who gave up her full-time job.
“This medication will slow the progression of MS offering people newly diagnosed a treatment, enabling them to continue working and living a full life."
Sarah said: “Since Karine was diagnosed with primary progressive MS we have gone from a working household with two full time incomes to her being unable to work and myself only able to work 10 hours per week due to my caring responsibilities.
“Access to ocrelizumab could help people continue to live their lives and help slow progression of the disabilities associated with MS so it’s wonderful news that others could now benefit from this treatment.”
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MS Society Scotland hailed the landmark news and the positive effect it could have for people across the country.
Morna Simpkins, Director for MS Society Scotland said: “This is great news and a hugely important development for people diagnosed with primary progressive MS in Scotland.
“We want every one of the 11,000 people in Scotland living with MS to have access to the right treatment at the right time and this decision takes us closer than ever to that goal.
“Right now, however, there isn’t enough evidence to show ocrelizumab can work for everyone, and we know the limited scope of this announcement will be disappointing 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.
“Research has got us to a critical point, and we can see a future where nobody needs to worry about MS getting worse. Our Stop MS appeal is aiming to raise £100 Million over 10 years to make that a reality and build on the treatments, like ocrelizumab, that are available.”
Ocrelizumab works by attaching itself to a protein (called CD20) on the surface of a type of white blood cell (called B cells) that attacks the protective coating around the nerves causing inflammation and damage to the nerve fibres. As a result ocrelizumab can block their activity and reduce the symptoms of MS.