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New study reveals people with MS in the UK are less likely to be prescribed DMTs than some other countries

Dr. Sophie Quick

There are a number of disease modifying treatments (DMTs) available for people with MS. When healthcare professionals prescribe these, they take into account a number of factors. Researchers investigated what impact these factors have on DMT use in different countries.

A new study has revealed significantly fewer people are prescribed DMTs in the UK, compared to four other European countries. The researchers identified key reasons for this. One is the tighter checks in place in the UK for people to access DMTs on the NHS.

What did they do?

This study looked at almost 65,000 people diagnosed with MS. It used registries including the UK MS Register. It compared information from people living with MS in Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and the UK.

Read more about who the Register can help

To understand why DMTs were prescribed differently, the researchers investigated features of the health systems in these countries. They asked questions like:

  • what MS services are available for each person?
  • what restrictions do healthcare professionals have when prescribing DMTs?
  • how much does the DMT cost to prescribe and to use?
  • do people need to meet a specific clinical description to access the DMT?
  • is the DMT prescription regularly assessed to see whether it’s still suitable?
Photo: a pile of pills
More than 130,000 people live with MS in the UK, and this research shows many are not getting the same opportunities as those in other countries. But we believe everyone deserves access to effective treatments, no matter where they live.
Dr. Clare Walton, Head of Research at MS Society

Regulations and resources affect prescriptions

The researchers found a country’s regulations had a large impact on whether DMTs were prescribed.

In the UK, there are more regular reviews for DMTs. Guidance issued by NICE or similar bodies determines if a DMT is considered appropriate for a person’s specific diagnosis and stage of MS. Prescriptions will be regularly reviewed after initiation to check a treatment is still appropriate as a person’s MS progresses. Other countries in the study don’t do this as much.

In fact, the researchers found if the other countries did similar monitoring and audit, their DMT use would fall. So while fewer people in the UK might be on DMTs, it might be that more people are on the right DMT.

Read more about different DMTs available

The availability of MS centres and experts might be another factor limiting use of DMTs in the UK. For example, around 130,000 people are living with MS in the UK. Which is around the same number of people with MS as there are in Germany. But, there are more than three times the amount of MS centres in Germany than in the UK.

The study also showed that having a diagnosis of relapsing or progressive MS can have a big impact on whether you have access to DMTs.

We need more research to understand these factors better.

Everyone deserves access

Dr Clare Walton, Head of Research at MS Society, says: “We know that getting early treatment with disease-modifying MS therapies can improve long term health and wellbeing. More than 130,000 people live with MS in the UK, and this research shows many are not getting the same opportunities as those in other countries. But we believe everyone deserves access to effective treatments, no matter where they live. 

“For years, neurology services in the UK have been neglected, underfunded, and deprioritised. Improving access to neurologists and MS specialists is key to improving the treatment landscape and quality of life for people living with MS. The government must take action by working with the NHS to build a sustainable neurology workforce.

“Research like this is vital to understand how people with MS are impacted by healthcare systems. And it couldn’t happen without people taking part in the UK MS Register – a unique, world-first study that securely collects years of data from people with MS and links it with their medical records. Right now, thousands of people with MS have signed up.”

Visit UK MS Register website for more information

What does this mean for people with MS?

There are many DMTs available in the UK for people living with MS. This research shows prescription of DMTs can be influenced by many factors.

Whether you are taking a DMT or not, you can always speak with your healthcare professional about the available options. And what factors they consider when making recommendations about DMTs.

You can find out more about all the DMTs and which might be a good match for you in our online tool.

To take part in the UK MS Register visit’re campaigning for the right treatment at the right time for people with MS, whatever your situation, wherever you live. Visit our Treat Me Right campaign to find out more.

Read the full paper on the Sage Journals website