Budget for interferon beta for MS sufferers would be better spent on improved supportive care

December 09, 1999

Population based cost utility of interferon beta-1b in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis

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Prescribing of the multiple sclerosis (MS) drug interferon beta-1b should be restricted and the funds saved should be redirected into improved supportive care for MS sufferers, say researchers in this week's BMJ.

Dr Raeburn Forbes from Ninewells Hospital and Medical School in Dundee along with colleagues from Argyll and Clyde Health Board and the Scottish Health Purchasing Information Centre studied 132 people with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis and the estimated effect of treating them with interferon beta-1b against existing best practice without this drug.

Treating a patient with interferon beta-1b costs over £9,600 a year, say the authors and in their study they find that this cost would be high in the context of the duration and quality of life gained owing to the modest clinical effects of the drug.

Forbes et al report that a recent trial showing the benefit from interferon beta-1b in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis sufferers has led to the call for the treatment to be made available to all patients with that form of the disease. The authors argue however that despite the need for improvement in the care of people with MS, their analysis shows that treatment with interferon beta-1b has a significant opportunity cost and resources could probably be better spent on other ways of improving quality of life for patients.


Dr Robert Swingler, Consultant Neurologist, Department of Neurology, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee

Tel: +44 (0)1382 425720
Fax: +44 (0)1382 425728 roberts@tuht.scot.nhs.uk


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