Stem cell treatment for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) in Scotland has been recommended on the NHS for the first time.
The Scottish Health Technologies Group, which provides evidence and support to NHS Scotland, says there is now enough evidence to recommend haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), which aims to reboot the immune system and halt the progression of MS.
The treatment works by collecting stem cells from a person’s bone marrow, then using chemotherapy to strip back their ‘faulty’ immune system. Stem cells are then transplanted back into their body and begin creating a new immune system. They are left very susceptible to infections and quite a lengthy hospital stay is required, but the theory is that the treatment resets the immune system and stops it attacking the central nervous system.
Under the new guidelines, HSCT could be offered to people with the relapsing-remitting form of MS, in which the relapses last for at least 24 hours, and who were not responding to other treatment.
It will not be offered to people with the progressive form of the condition, as it is not considered an effective treatment for this.