Only around one in 10 of those who are eligible for a new drug to treat multiple sclerosis are getting it, even though it was approved a year ago for use in the NHS, the Guardian has been told.
Natalizumab, which goes by the brand name Tysabri, is the first drug that the National Institute for Clinical Excellence has approved for multiple sclerosis.
But in an answer to a parliamentary question put by the Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow, the government said between 100 and 300 people were getting the drug as of March this year, out of a possible 2,000 who could benefit from it.
Some delays may be due to the need to give the drug as an hour-long intravenous infusion, which means there must be a suitable place available.
The Department of Health said the choice of treatment was up to the clinician and patient. "The government has made it clear that the local NHS is required to provide funding for treatments and drugs recommended by Nice within three months of the Nice technology appraisal guidance being published," a spokesman said.