NHS England increases access to cladribine tablets for multiple sclerosis patients during pandemic

pharmafile | March 3, 2021 | News story | Research and Development Cladribine, Mavenclad, Merck, multiple sclerosis 

NHS England has updated the Blueteq requirements for patients with highly active relapsing MS starting Merck’s cladribine (Mavenclad) tablets during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cladribine tablets can now be started without the need for a patient to have an MRI before commencing treatment, if an MRI is not possible as a direct result of coronavirus.

The NHS’ decision is in response to COVID-19 and delays in access to treatment for patients with highly active relapsing MS during the pandemic. The change to the Blueteq form addresses challenges with capacity for MRI scans during the COVID-19 pandemic, and provide access to disease-modifying therapy (DMT) treatment for patients who have been shielding or are unable to visit the hospital.

The move was supported by neurologists at several large MS specialist centres, who feel MS patients will benefit from this change to eligibility during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cladribine tablets are a short-course oral treatment available in the UK for adults with highly active, relapsing MS, that can help reduce relapses for up to four years with a maximum of 20 days’ oral treatment, taken in the first and second year. Following completion of treatment in the first two years, no additional treatment is required in years 3 and 4.

Dr Wallace Brownlee, Consultant Neurologist and MS Clinical Lead at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that some people with MS have experienced delays in starting DMT while awaiting MRI to confirm treatment eligibility.

“The removal of the MRI requirement for reimbursement of treatment with cladribine tablets provides access to a highly effective and convenient oral DMT option when options may be limited as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

David Martin, CEO of the Multiple Sclerosis Trust, added: “We are very pleased that NHS England has amended criteria for access to Mavenclad.

“Now people with MS face one less barrier to accessing an effective MS treatment as the pandemic continues to disrupt health services.”

Darcy Jimenez

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