MS patients 'need better access to drugs'

Published Monday, 29 April 2013
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A high number of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients in Northern Ireland are not able to access the most effective treatments for their condition, a new report has revealed.

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Two of the most effective disease-modifying treatments (DMTs) are Tysabri and Fingolimod.

The licensed medicines can reduce the frequency and severity of MS attacks, and in some cases can slow the progression of disability.

Just 31% of people eligible for Tysabri are currently receiving it in Northern Ireland.

Based on NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) estimates, 16% of people with relapsing remitting MS in the region may be eligible for Fingolimod, the report by the MS Society also revealed.

It is an oral tablet which can reduce relapses by up to 60%.

In Northern Ireland, around one in every 500 people live with the disabling neurological condition.

The region has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world.

Tom Mallon, Head of the MS Society in Northern Ireland, said: "These findings worryingly suggest that the likelihood of someone receiving a life changing treatment is often based on luck - like where they live or how helpful their healthcare professional is - rather than their genuine clinical need."

He continued: "In Northern Ireland eligible people with MS are unable access to the most up-to-date and effective treatments.

"These are treatments which are proven to reduce relapse rates and which can greatly improve quality of life by removing the need for people with MS to administer their medicines via injection".

"People with MS are facing a lottery when it comes to accessing the care and support they need to manage their condition and this must change."

The MS Society launched its 'Stop the MS Lottery' campaign on Monday to mark the first day of MS Week, which continues through until Sunday.

They are calling for all people with the condition to have fair access to the treatments and services they need, when they need them, wherever they live in the UK.

The charity said that their report 'A lottery of treatment and care: MS services across Northern Ireland and the UK' uncovers major disparities across the UK in access to MS medicines, social care support, employment support and health professionals.

More than 10,000 adults with MS in the UK responded to a survey, which was used to inform the report.

They were asked what services they needed and to what extent these needs had been met over the previous 12 months.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland is leading the way in access to MS specialists, such as neurologists and MS nurses.

Over 90% of patients were able to see a neurologist when they needed to, compared to just 72% in Wales.

However, access to care in the community is much worse in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the UK.

EXTERNAL LINKS / CONTACTS
MS Society telephone: 0808 800 8000
Only 6% of people with MS in the region, who saw a nurse had them come to their home, compared to 24% across the UK.
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1 Comments
Realist in England wrote (360 days ago):
This is not a comment on the constitutional status of the six counties but rather on the policies and priorities of the British government. People say that the NHS is a wonderful organisation but it really isn't in my opinion. Prior to the splitting up of the service into trusts run by professional managers to reach arbitrary targets, it was a much better organisation managed by doctors and nurses who divided resources to meet clinical need. If you compare the NHS to the health service in the Free State (simply because I know of no other service in as much detail), the NHS comes out much worse. In terms of funding - yes, most people earning a reasonable salary have to obtain health insurance but laws prevent discrimination on the basis of health conditions (i.e. everyone of a given age/family size/etc. would pay the same for the same cover). When people are sick, they get prescribed the most appropriate drugs/surgery/etc. for their condition. Under NICE guidelines, the NHS refuses certain treatments based purely on financial considerations. Drug A may be better than drug B, say, but the cost of drug A will be weighed against its clinical benefits. People are literally allowed to die sooner in the six counties than elsewhere in Ireland based on the price of drugs unless they are prepared to pay for them themselves. In England, different regions have different amounts of money available to pay for certain treatments leading to a 'postcode lottery' as to whether or not a patient gets a life saving/life prolonging treatment. Reading this story, it would appear that the same is true in the six counties. That is fundamentally unfair. Unifying Ireland would overcome the problem. For those of a more Unionist mindset - devolving sufficient powers from Westminster to dismantle the local NHS and replace it with something fairer (and, presumably, cheaper) would also work. An uncaring, partially privatised NHS run by career managers is less than the Irish people deserve.
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