Fingolimod, which has been shown in clinical trials to reduce the risk of disabling relapses by as much as 50%, has been recommended by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) six months after it initially rejected the pill on cost grounds.
The daily tablet, which replaces injections for sufferers, is already available to patients in England and Wales and is widely prescribed in Europe, the
US and Canada. It is used to treat sufferers with the relapsing-remitting form of the disease (RRMS), which affects around 85% of all patients and some 8000 Scots.
Whereas patients with the rarer progressive MS will face a steady deterioration in their condition, RRMS is characterised by periodic disabling relapses involving the sudden onset of a new symptom or the worsening of an old symptom. It is typically diagnosed among younger people, in their 20s or 30s, and affects two to three times as many women as men.
The list price for a month's supply of fingolimod – 28 0.5mg pills – is around £1600 a month including VAT, in comparison to around £690 for the commonly prescribed beta-interferon.
However, it is understood that in its resubmission to the SMC, manufacturer Novartis has offered a "substantial discount" to make it value for money.
Patricia Gordon, director of the MS Society Scotland, said the decision yesterday was a "significant step forward" for MS patients in Scotland.
l A skin cancer drug used to treat patients with inoperable tumours has been rejected for use on the NHS in Scotland.
Vemurafenib targets the activity of the faulty BRAF V600 gene present in half of patients with inoperable metastatic melanoma, and is the first licensed personalised medicine to extend the lives of these patients to over a year.