Parkinson’s patients in Scotland have been denied access to a “life changing treatment” after it was deemed too costly for use on the NHS.
Campaigners have criticised the Scottish Medicines Consortium’s (SMC) decision to reject the drug Duodopa for people with advanced Parkinson’s disease, although it is available south of the Border.
The degenerative neurological condition affects more than 10,000 Scots, with symptoms such as tremors, slowness of movement and rigidity. Former army officer David Taylor, from Edinburgh, said the drug changed his life after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2008.
Doctors argued his case for nearly a year before Mr Taylor was finally granted a six-month trial, which rid the 58-year-old of painful cramps and violent involuntary movements.
Parkinson’s UK claimed the decision would come at a huge cost to the NHS, as many of these patients would need round-the-clock care without the drug.
Katherine Crawford, Scotland director at Parkinson’s UK, said: “It is essential that people with severe Parkinson’s symptoms that are not responding to other treatments can access Duodopa easily. There is no alternative treatment, and without it people will have a very poor quality of life.
“People have told us that without Duodopa they would have moved to a care home to get 24 hour care, at a cost to the state of over £40,000 per year.”
The charity has written to the SMC chairman and health secretary Shona Robison to express frustration over yesterday’s decision, as it claimed the voices of doctors and patients were not being heard.
Patients will have to apply individually to their NHS board for the drug, which could result in lengthy delays, said Dr Conor Maguire, a consultant in geriatric medicine for NHS Lothian and chair of the Lothian Parkinson’s Service Advisory Group.
He said: “Although the numbers of patients requiring Duodopa is low, it can be a life changing treatment for those who are suitable.
“My consultant colleagues in England are now able to prescribe Duodopa if they think that their patient will benefit from it. But in Scotland we will only be able to secure this treatment by going through a long, bureaucratic negotiation, with no guarantee of success. Our patients deserve better.”
Dr Alan MacDonald, vice-chairman of SMC, said it could not approve the drug due to uncertainty about the clinical benefits the medicine would provide compared to its cost.