I sympathise profoundly with anyone who is affected by MS and I appreciate how effective Ocrelizumab can be in reducing disability progression in people with primary progressive MS (PPMS).
Last year, the Department of Health and Social Care asked the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to produce guidance on using ocrelizumab for treating PPMS. Appraisals began in October 2017 and a consultation document was published in June this year. In the document, NICE acknowledged that there are currently no disease-modifying treatments approved for PPMS and that clinical trials have shown that Ocrelizumab can slow the worsening of disability in patients.
However, as you know, NICE concluded that the benefits gained from Ocrelizumab treatment do not represent value for money to the NHS when compared to the cost of routine NHS treatment currently provided for PPMS.
I understand the disappointment that will be felt by many people in our constituency and across the country at this decision. All NHS patients should get fast access to the most effective new drugs and treatments and I am concerned that drug appraisals are increasingly based on cost-effectiveness, rather than clinical need.
NICE has come under criticism from many organisations within the healthcare sector, including medical professionals and charities, about the way in which it appraises drugs, the length of time taken for appraisals, and the balance it gives to the clinical and cost-effectiveness of making new drugs and services available. We need a top-to-bottom reform of NICE to ensure that drug acceptance and funding is determined solely by clinical need.
In October, NICE paused the publication of its final guidance on Ocrelizumab for treatment of PPMS while commercial discussions between the company and NHS England are taking place. I hope that both sides engage further to try and reach an agreement on this drug, which could have a substantial impact on the lives of people with PPMS.
I have written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social care to ask what can be done to make Ocrelizumab available on the NHS. As soon as I have received a response I will contact you again and I can assure you I will follow developments on NICE’s guidance closely and bear in mind the points you have raised.