HSE to fund on limited basis cost of multiple sclerosis drug

Extended campaign by patients proves success for medicine that helps sufferers to walk

Patients have been paying up to €500 a month for Fampridine from their own resources. Photograph: Getty Images

Patients have been paying up to €500 a month for Fampridine from their own resources. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The Health Service Executive has agreed to fund on a limited basis the cost of a drug that helps people with multiple sclerosis to walk.

The announcement that Fampridine (known commercially as Fampyra) is to be reimbursed under the State-funded drugs schemes follows a lengthy campaign by patients who says the drug has greatly aided their mobility.

The HSE says it is in the final stages of putting in place the arrangement around a “responder-based” reimbursement programme for Fampridine.

The cost of the drug will be covered where a demonstration of clinical response, based on objective criteria agreed with clinical experts, is recorded, it says. This clinical response must be shown to persist based on objective measurement at six-monthly intervals.

Annual cost

In 2013, the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics, which rules on the cost-effectiveness of new drugs, found Fampridine would cost nearly €7,000 per patient each year. It said the €20 million annual cost to the State over five years would take money from other areas.

The HSE then decided that it could not approve the reimbursement of Fampridine and claimed the manufacturer, Biogen Idec, had failed to demonstrate or provide any formal justification for the prices proposed. Biogen maintained it had offered significant price reductions in the talks.

Agreement has now been reached on a reimbursement arrangement.

Patients have been paying up to €500 a month for Fampridine from their own resources after Biogen started charging for the drug last year following a free trial period.

Multiple Sclerosis Ireland expressed delight with the progress on reimbursing Fampridine, which it said had a significant impact on patients’ ability to remain independent.