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Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

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Study Questions Cost-Effectiveness of MS Drugs

Doctors Express Concern About Soaring Prices of Disease-Modifying Drugs for Multiple Sclerosis

Making Improvements in Cost-Effectiveness

Other countries pay far less for the same medications.

Patients in the U.K., for example, get the drug Betaseron for about $12,000 a year, while it costs about $34,000 in the U.S.

Researchers say that if the U.S. were to see prices for these drugs like those paid by patients in the U.K., the treatments could achieve more accepted levels of cost-effectiveness.

The cost-effectiveness also improved when people were started on the drugs early in the course of their disease, when the medications could still prevent permanent nerve damage, perhaps keeping them healthier, longer.

The impact of the study will be "a good deal of discussion concerning where we are in the treatment of MS in terms of cost, obviously, and in terms of where we would like to go in the future," says Nicholas LaRocca, PhD, vice president of health care delivery and policy research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The organization helped to fund the study.

"I would imagine that some people will look at this study and will feel that it will discourage the availability of treatment, but I don't really see that happening," he says. "We need to do more studies like this."

Other experts pointed out that the high costs are already hitting patients hard.

"Some patients will get a new prescription, but they don't get the prescription filled because it's so costly," says Kathleen A. Smyth, PhD, co-director of the Neurological Outcomes Center and associate professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University.

Symth, who wrote an editorial that accompanied the study, says she thinks the message of the study isn't that patients shouldn't be treated with the drugs. "It's that we have to get drug prices under control in this country."

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