Summary of work
More than 100,000 people in the UK have multiple sclerosis, and the MS Society is fighting to improve treatment and care to help people with MS take control of their lives. The number one goal for the MS Society is to ensure people with MS have access to effective treatments for their condition, including treatments which can slow the accumulation of disability and those to help manage the symptoms of this unpredictable condition.
In 2018, we saw two crucial milestones in the treatment landscape for people with MS.
Ocrelizumab, the first ever treatment for primary progressive MS was granted a license for use in Europe and offered real hope for patients who had no other disease-modifying treatment (DMT) option. Around 600 people are diagnosed with primary progressive MS a year and living with the condition can be painful and often exhausting, and symptoms will gradually get worse over time. However, in medical trials for ocrelizumab, people with primary progressive MS saw an average drop of around 25% in the risk of their disability getting worse. Despite the clear unmet need and potential for people with MS ocrelziumab was rejected for use on the NHS by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). This led to the MS Society launching a reactionary campaign to speak up for treatments for people with primary progressive MS.
Another key development in the potential treatment for MS was the UK Government rescheduling cannabis for medicinal use and allowing specialist doctors to prescribe. After campaigning on the issue since 2017, in June 2018 the Home Office launched a review into the scheduling of cannabis for medicinal use. Part 1 of the review from Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England and Chief Medical Advisor to the UK Government, assessed the therapeutic and medicinal benefits of cannabis-based products, and found that there is conclusive evidence of therapeutic benefit for certain medical conditions (including for spasticity in MS and chronic pain). The second part of the review undertaken by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) concluded that cannabis for medicinal use should be moved out of Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations, in order to make it legal to prescribe them. As of the 1st November 2018, cannabis for medicinal use was no longer illegal in the UK, however, access is still incredibly restricted and little has changed for people with MS.
The organisational values for the MS Society really come through in their campaign work, which is excellent to see. Within the entry itself barriers and tactics are really clear. The narrative is easy to follow and strong, there’s an amazing achievement in terms of the cannabis space and it’s amazing that they’ve done it in such an authentic way. Ultimately there’s a clear impact and clear effectiveness.