Letters

Interferon beta in multiple sclerosis

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7080.600a (Published 22 February 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:600

Reducing frequency and severity of relapses will be of great clinical benefit

  1. Alexander Burnfield, President, Andover and Winchester branches of the MS Societya
  1. a Terstan Longstock, Stockbridge SO20 6DW
  2. b Norfolk Health, Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich NR7 0HT
  3. c Schering Health Care, Burgess Hill, West Sussex RH15 9NE
  4. d Economists Advisory Group, London W2 1JA
  5. e NHS Executive, Department of Health, Leeds LS2 7UE
  6. f MS Society, London SW6 1EE
  7. g Department of Neurology, Tampere University Hospital and University of Tampere, Medical School, PO Box 607, FIN-33101 Tampere, Finland

    Editor-Richard G Richards's editorial on interferon beta in multiple sclerosis deals with the “clinical cost effectiveness” of the drug in the disease, but it lacks a fair balance, emphasising the cost effectiveness and minimising the clinical effectiveness of the drug.1 Richards states that “the studies showed no evidence of any reduction in the more clinically relevant endpoint-the progression of disability, which should be the goal of treatment.” This is his personal judgment and does not reflect the needs and wishes of patients with multiple sclerosis and their families.

    Multiple sclerosis is a distressing, humiliating, and often long drawn out disease with no cure. For this reason, quality of life, for the patients and their families, is paramount. A drug that can reduce the frequency and severity of relapses, whether or not it diminishes the progression of the disease, will be of great clinical benefit to many patients, improving their situation physically, psychologically, and socially. Surely happiness, feeling better, and increased health have great value. This is what many of us believe that the practice of our profession is about.

    References

    1. 1.

    Current policy is sensible

    1. C Price, Director of primary careb
    1. a Terstan Longstock, Stockbridge SO20 6DW
    2. b Norfolk Health, Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich NR7 0HT
    3. c Schering Health Care, Burgess Hill, West Sussex RH15 9NE
    4. d Economists Advisory Group, London W2 1JA
    5. e NHS Executive, Department of Health, Leeds LS2 7UE
    6. f MS Society, London SW6 1EE
    7. g Department of Neurology, Tampere University Hospital and University of Tampere, Medical School, PO Box 607, FIN-33101 Tampere, Finland

      Editor-The NHS Executive's position on interferon beta allows individual hospital doctors, working within certain parameters, to decide with a patient with multiple sclerosis whether to start treatment with the drug. This sensible standpoint comes in for varying degrees of criticism in three recent articles, mainly on the grounds of health economics.1,2,3 The authors are all proponents of evidence based policymaking but are happy to assert that an effect on disability is the most important outcome measure in this disease without producing any evidence to support their view. Many people with multiple sclerosis would consider a reduction in the number of relapses to be valuable. We do not withhold treatments that give important symptomatic relief in …

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