On World Multiple Sclerosis Day: Experts Urge Better Understanding of the Most Common Disabling Neurological Condition Affecting 50,000 Egyptians.
May 14, 2013
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Cairo, 14 May, 2013 – On occasion of World Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Day, the MS Chapter of the Egyptian Society of Neurology, Psychiatry, and Neurosurgery (ESNPN), urged better public understanding of the disease that affects 2.5 million people worldwide. Experts highlighted treatment breakthroughs bringing tangible hope for the most common disabling neurological condition.
“MS is a neurodegenerative condition that often begins in early adulthood,” said Dr Sherif Hamdy, Professor of Neurology, Cairo University. “Around 70% of newly diagnosed patients are in the prime of their lives - between 20 and 40 years of age.”
The WHO estimates that MS affects 30 people per 100,000 worldwide, women are twice as likely to develop the disease as men. “In Egypt, a nationwide study revealed that MS cases represent 1.4% of all neurological diseases. Out of 45,750 neurologic patients, 648 were diagnosed with MS. In total nearly 50,000 Egyptians suffer from MS” said Hamdy.
“MS is an autoimmune disease, in which the body's immune system attacks its own tissues,” said Dr Hany Aref, Professor of Neurology, Ain Shams University. “No one fully understands what causes MS. The only consensus is that the immune system becomes hyperactive, attacking and destroying the myelin sheath - the fatty substance that coats and protects nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord.”
“The life of a person with MS is not predictable,” added Aref. “MS can be relatively benign and patients can lead a normal life with constant monitoring and appropriate treatment. Left untreated MS can devastate the body leading to the loss of the ability to write, speak, or walk.”
“Although there is still no cure for MS, effective strategies can modify the disease course, treat exacerbations (attacks, relapses, or flare-ups), manage symptoms and improve function and safety,” said Dr Magd Zakaria, Professor of Neurology, Ain Shams University.
The most recent treatment milestone is the FDA’s approval in 2010 of a new oral treatment. "It offers significant efficacy in the convenience of a capsule and is a welcome addition to the treatment options for individuals living with this chronic disease,” said Zakaria.
Trial results showed that patients treated with the new oral treatment had a 50% cut in disabling relapses compared with commonly used injections of beta interferon. The chances of progressing to a worse form of the disease were cut by about a third, without significant side effects. The new oral treatment has been used to treat more than 6,300 patients.
"Novartis is dedicated to bringing innovative new treatments to patients where there is significant unmet need,” said Dr Salah El Sharkawy, Novartis Egypt vice president and spokesperson "We have invested in breakthrough large-scale scientific research for MS treatments since 2003, and we will remain committed to providing new hope and better outcomes for MS patients."
“MS patients face unique challenges,” added Aref. “More effective treatments are a starting point for a better life for MS patients. Yet to drive major improvement we need better public and patient understanding of MS and its impact, along with making health services more widely available and encouraging MS support groups.”