HC Deb 10 June 2002 vol 386 cc1077-8W
Mr. Wray

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assistance his Department has been given to research into arthritis since 1997; what new treatments have become available for arthritis sufferers; and what payments are made to sufferers of arthritis to assist with medication costs. [56264]

Ms Blears

The main Government agency for research into the cause and treatments of disease is the Medical Research Council (MRC) which receives its funding via the Department of Trade and Industry. The MRC spend is available from 1999 and is an estimated £12.9 million on research relevant to arthritis.

The Department funds research to support policy and the delivery of effective practice in the national health service. The departmental spend on directly commissioned research projects on arthritis since 1997 is an estimated £2.5 million. The Department has also funded projects relevant to arthritis but with wider relevance, and the expenditure on these has not been counted.

In addition to specific projects, the Department provides support for research commissioned by charities and the research councils that takes place in the NHS. Management of much of the research supported by NHS research and development funding is devolved and expenditure at project level is not held centrally by the Department. The total investment is considerably greater than the spend on directly commissioned projects.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) was asked to appraise the use of infliximab (Remicade) and etanecerpt (Enbrel) in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. NICE issued its guidance on 22 March 2002. NICE has recommended the use of etanercept for the treatment of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and etanercept and infliximab for rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

There are no payments made to sufferers of arthritis to assist with medication costs. People with arthritis are entitled to free NHS prescriptions if the patient is under 16 (or under 19 if in full-time education); aged 60 or over; or holds an exemption certificate; or is entitled on the grounds of low income. Prescription prepayment certificates save money for anyone who needs more than a certain number of items over a particular period.

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