Stem cell transplants approved for people with MS in Scotland

31 October 2019

The Scottish Health Technologies Group (SHTG), which gives advice to NHS Scotland on new treatments, has approved autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) for people with highly active relapsing remitting MS (RRMS). 

After carrying out an in-depth review, the SHTG concluded that AHSCT should be considered as a treatment option for people with RRMS who continue to have relapses and show MS activity on MRI scans despite taking the most effective disease modifying drugs.  They also emphasised that it was important for people to be aware of the risks and demanding nature of the treatment as well as the benefits. 

SHTG looked at the evidence for using AHSCT in MS and invited submissions from patient groups, including the MS Trust.  In our report, we highlighted the impact that RRMS has on all aspects of life, the experiences of people with MS who have benefited from NHS treatment with AHSCT in England, and argued that people living in Scotland should not be denied access to this treatment option. 

What does this mean for me?

At the moment, there are no centres in Scotland offering stem cell treatments for MS.  Two centres in England (Sheffield and London Collaborative Group) provide AHSCT as an NHS treatment for a limited number of people who meet strict eligibility criteria.

The decision from Scottish Health Technologies Group to approve AHSCT is very welcome news but this is the first step towards making this treatment available in Scotland.  NHS Scotland is required to consider this advice and we will continue to press for access to AHSCT for people meeting the eligibility criteria in Scotland.