Thousands of patients are to be denied a breakthrough drug for multiple sclerosis after officials decided it was too expensive.
Described as a ‘game changer’ by scientists, ocrelizumab is the first ever drug to be shown to effectively treat primary progressive MS – a form of the disease which affects around 15,000 people in Britain.
But NHS rationing watchdog NICE said the £9,600 price tag for each six-monthly dose – £19,200 per patient per year – did not match the benefits it provides.
The drug, which was tested in hospitals across the UK in a huge clinical trial three years ago, saw the progress of the disease slowed by 24 per cent over just 12 weeks.
Experts believe this delays the need for a wheelchair by an average of seven years.
Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs at the MS Society, said: ‘This is a deeply disappointing decision, denying many desperate people access to a treatment which may slow down their disability progression.
‘MS can be painful and often exhausting, and for many people living with the primary progressive form – which currently has no treatment on the NHS – ocrelizumab offered them a shot at a better future.
‘Right now our utmost priority is ensuring everyone who could benefit from this treatment is given that opportunity.’
MS is the most common disabling neurological condition, affecting about 100,000 people in Britain.
The condition, which affects twice as many women as men, causes loss of mobility, sight problems, tiredness and excruciating pain.
The disease either become progressively worse with age or strikes in brutal, periodic relapses – with many people left relying on wheelchairs.
The condition is caused when the body’s immune system malfunctions, and instead of warding off diseases turns instead to attack the body’s own nerves.