Thousands of patients living with Multiple Sclerosis are set to benefit from a pioneering drug trialled in the North East.
Adults living with relapsing-remitting MS may be helped by new treatment, Tecfidera, as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has issued approval guidance for its use.
Patient’s at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary have already been benefitting from the treatment as a clinical trial for Tecfidera has taken place in the North East.
The news has been welcomed by sufferers as it offers new hope to those living with the debilitating illness.
Mother-of-two Katie Stanton, from Mickley Sqaure, near Prudhoe, Northumberland, was diagnosed in 2007. The 49-year-old has been part of the RVI’s clinical trial for Tecfidera and says the treatment has made her condition manageable as she continues to live life to the full.
The partner in a property investment firm, whose sister also has MS, said: “It was life-changing when I was given the diagnosis and it was like a bomb had been dropped on me.
“Then I thought what can I do about this? I asked to be put on a clinical trial for MS and was told of the trial at the RVI.
“Tecfidera is a massive step forward in the treatment of MS and it is offering hope to those who have the condition that they will get better treatment.
“In the North East a lot of research is being done into all aspects of medical health and we are incredibly lucky to live in an area which is leading the way in research.”
In MS, white blood cells attack the coating of the nerve cells which help messages from the brain travel to the rest of the body.
As these cells are damaged, people experience numbness and tingling, blurred vision, mobility and balance problems, and muscle weakness and tightness.
MS is one of the world’s most common neurological disorders, and approximately 100,000 people in the UK have the illness. Between 50 and 60 people a week are diagnosed with it and the average age of onset is 32.
Around eight out of 10 people with MS are diagnosed with the relapsing remitting form of the condition.
Nice said Tecfidera should be used on the NHS as an option for treating patients who have had two “clinically significant relapses in the previous two years”, if they do not have highly active or a rapidly evolving form of the illness.
The treatment’s manufacturer, Biogen Idec, must also be willing to provide the drug with the discount agreed in the patient access scheme, the Nice guidance said.
Dr Martin Duddy, consultant neurologist at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary said: “I am delighted that people living with the most common type of MS may benefit from a new oral treatment.
“The announcement from Nice means that adults with the common relapsing remitting form of MS starting on treatment for the first time may benefit from this twice daily oral capsule.”
The NHS will have a three month period to implement the Nice guidance.
Dr Ben Turner, consultant neurologist and honorary senior lecturer at Barts and The London NHS Trust, said: “As the UK chief investigator for Tecfidera’s Define study, having seen the obvious benefits of Tecfidera in MS patients I’m delighted that people with relapsing-remitting MS will now have access to this new treatment.
“Tecfidera has been shown to significantly reduce the number of MS relapses and delay disability progression compared to placebo. Also, as shown in the studies, Tecfidera is well tolerated, making it a welcome new treatment option.”