NHS England has confirmed a change in prescribing requirements for Cladribine tablets, a high efficacy oral treatment for highly active Multiple Sclerosis (MS), that will make the treatment more accessible to patients across England.

This change comes as a result of work by UCLPartners on behalf of the AHSN Network Cladribine group, in association with Merck and the Association of British Neurologists, who sought the change after identifying an urgent need in the system.

The change has been endorsed by a number of senior neurological physicians who specialise in MS treatment. The new prescribing guidance states that patients with active MS being switched from an existing disease-modifying treatment on to Cladribine tablets will no longer require an additional MRI scan.

During the COVID-19 pandemic it has been increasingly difficult to fulfil the requirement for patients to have an additional MRI scan before changing their treatment, due to reduced hospital capacity and reluctance of patients to visit hospital for fear of contracting COVID-19.

NHS England’s decision reduces barriers to access for MS patients starting Cladribine tablets and helps to ensure high-quality care with minimal delay during the pandemic.

Dr Charlie Davie, Consultant Neurologist at The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and AHSN Network Lead for Cladribine Accelerated Access said “This is a wonderful example of the NHS responding to the needs of patients during the COVID-19 crisis. A pathway that allows MS patients to be switched to Cladribine tablets without the need for a hospital visit or admission helps both patients and the NHS during this very difficult and challenging time.”

Professor Nikos Evangelou, Consultant Neurologist at The University of Nottingham said: “The change of the NHS England criteria allowing the prescription of Cladribine, even if a recent gadolinium enhanced lesion is not available, is an important change. COVID has put enormous pressure in our MRI units and this amendment is very welcome, both by the MS and MRI teams across the country.”

Doina Ionescu, Merck’s UK & Ireland General Manager said: “This decision recognises the value of Cladribine Tablets (MAVENCLAD) to the NHS and will provide an even greater opportunity for MS patients to benefit from Cladribine Tablets’ durable high efficacy and low dosing and monitoring requirements.”