Scots suffering from multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis will have access to two more treatments after they were approved by the country’s medicine watchdog.
The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) has approved fingolimod, the world’s first pill for the treatment of patients with highly-active relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), within NHS Scotland.
People with the disease who have not responded to treatment with interferon injections will now have the option of switching to fingolimod as the next step.
In March, the SMC initially rejected the use of fingolimod in NHS Scotland but it has reversed its decision, saying it recognised the significant unmet need for an effective oral treatment for people for whom interferon injections do not work.
The decision brings Scotland, which has the highest rate of MS in the world with 10,000 affected, into line with the rest of the UK.
The SMC said that fingolimod is more than twice as effective at reducing relapses as a standard injection.
Dr Belinda Weller, a consultant neurologist who took part in the clinical trials for fingolimod in Scotland, 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.”
The SMC has also approved a treatment for patients unable to take methotrexate (MTX), one of the standard combination drugs given for rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
They will now have the option of taking the treatment RoActemra.
The SMC said data showed that patients receiving RoActemra are almost four times more likely to go into remission from the disease than those receiving the most widely-prescribed alternative, Humira.
Dr David Marshall, honorary clinical associate professor and consultant rheumatologist at NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, said: “RA is a progressive disease which can lead to irreversible joint damage and disability.
“We need to treat patients as quickly and aggressively as possible, using the most efficacious treatments available, to prevent further damage from occurring.
“Remission in RA is achievable for many patients and this is what we should be aiming for.
“This news will make a real difference to the treatment of RA and to patients’ lives, who until now have had limited treatment options.”