Ground-breaking pill that treats multiple sclerosis to be made available to Scots on NHS

Fingolimod will be made available on the NHS in Scotland. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Fingolimod will be made available on the NHS in Scotland. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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THE world’s first pill to treat multiple sclerosis is to be given to patients in Scotland on the NHS, it was announced today.

• Pill that treats multiple sclerosis, called fingolimod, is to made available on the NHS

• Scotland the last country in UK not to offer drug on NHS despite having highest rate of MS in the world

• Drug was found to be twice as effective as interferom, the most commonly used drug currently available

The Scottish Medicines Consortium approved the drug fingolimod to treat patients in Scotland - which has the highest rate of MS in the world.

Until today Scotland was the only country in the UK not to offer the ground-breaking drug to patients on the NHS. It comes just months after the SMC refused the same drug saying it was not cost effective.

Experts had told how in tests the found to be twice as effective as the most commonly used drug to treat MS, interferon, which patients inject, in treating symptoms. Fingolimod was also found to be effective in preventing relapses in people with the chronic and disabling condition.

Dr Belinda Weller, a consultant neurologist at Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital, said: “Scotland has the highest incidence of MS in the world, so the availability of an effective oral treatment for people whose injections are no longer working is fantastic news. Not only is fingolimod very effective, but also more convenient, which is very important considering the geography of Scotland.”

More than 10,000 people in Scotland have MS and doctors are unsure why rates are so high but believe it may be due to the poor weather or a flaw in the ‘celtic gene’.

A SMC spokesman said: “We are pleased to announce fingolimod for the treatment of MS can now be routinely prescribed within the NHS in Scotland. Fingolimod was accepted because it offers value for money due to a financial scheme proposed by the manufacturer which improves the cost-effectiveness of the medicine.”

Patricia Gordon, director of the MS Society in Scotland said: “For the last ten years people with MS have needed to inject to receive their medicines – a pill represents a significant step forward and will greatly improve quality of life”.

The SMC also gave the green light to a drug which is set to help more than 1,000 people in Scotland with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The drug, RoActemra, was found to be four times more effective to lead to remission in patients than other drugs currently used to treat the illness.

Dr David Marshall, Consultant Rheumatologist at Greenock’s Inverclyde Royal Hospital, said: “RA is a progressive disease which can lead to irreversible joint damage and disability.

“This news will make a real difference to the treatment of RA and to patients’ lives, who until now have had limited treatment options.”

Around half of people with RA will be unable to work within ten years of being diagnosed. Around 60,000 people have the illness in Scotland.