Drugs to treat multiple sclerosis have some benefits but can be prohibitively pricey

It’s not enough to bring a new medication to market -- the cost-effectiveness of the drug must be considered as well. A study finds there is a high price for some drugs used to treat the symptoms of multiple sclerosis compared with medications that treat other chronic diseases.

The study, released Wednesday online in the journal Neurology, looked at statistics on 844 people over 10 years. The participants had relapsing MS, a common form of the disease.

Researchers noted who was taking FDA-approved disease-modifying therapies for MS and also looked at the cost of hospital care and office visits, diagnostic tests, health aides and providers, nursing home care and lost work time.

Small health gains were seen among those who used the disease-modifying drugs, compared with basic treatment. Those who took a form of interferon, for example, added on average two quality-adjusted months over 10 years, compared with those who didn’t take disease-modifying treatments.


However, the cost-effectiveness of all of the drugs was more than $800,000 per quality-adjusted life year. This refers to the estimated number of years of life that the treatment would provide, as well as the quality of life.

The authors found that reducing the cost of the drugs by 67% would improve the cost-benefit ratio.

“Our study shows that under the current prescribing and pricing conditions in the U.S., the disease-modifying drugs account for about 50% of a person’s overall healthcare-related costs over 10 years and need to be brought into line so that they are not such an economic drain,” said lead author Katia Noyes in a news release.