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NICE backs ‘revolutionary’ new drug for MS patients

A multiple sclerosis drug that need only be taken twice has been recommended for use in the NHS by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Alemtuzumab (Lemtrada), which is manufactured by Genzyme, is a treatment for adults with relapsing-remitting MS.

NICE said the drug had been described by specialists as a “revolutionary” treatment that allowed some patients to live their lives as they had before being diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS.

“Clinical specialists and patients [have] described alemtuzumab as a revolutionary treatment for some people”

Carole Longson

Other currently available treatments are either oral daily tablets or injections given several times each week. But alemtuzumab is given intravenously once a year for two years.

Taken in two courses, the first course is administered for five consecutive days, and the second course is administered for three consecutive days 12 months later. No further treatment is needed, although regular check-ups may be required, the institute said in its guidance on the drug.

However, it noted that some possible serious side effects, including kidney disease and thyroid problems – although clinical specialists claim these can be manageable when patients comply with monitoring requirements.

Alemtuzumab is an antibody that binds to B and T cells in the immune system, resulting in their destruction. The way in which it slows the decline of active relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis is not fully understood, said the institute.

Professor Carole Longson, director of the NICE Health Technology Evaluation Centre, said: “We are very pleased to be able to recommend alemtuzumab for adults with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.

Professor Carole Longson

Carole Longson

“Evidence has shown that alemtuzumab is more effective and less expensive than current similar treatments for those with severe relapsing-remitting MS,” she added.

The price of alemtuzumab is £7,045 per 12 mg vial, which equates to £56,360 for the full course of treatment.

The NHS now has a legal duty to begin funding the treatment for eligible patients within the next three months.

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