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Bahrain licences first MS oral drug

Manama, May 9, 2011

Bahrain has licensed the world’s first oral medication for Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a nervous system disease that affects the brain and spinal cord leading to symptoms such as visual disturbances and muscle weakness.

The Bahrain Ministry of Health approved Novartis-made drug Gilenya (fingolimod) for use in relapsing remitting form of MS that affects around two-thirds of those diagnosed with the disease, which causes muscle weakness, problems with co-ordination and impaired concentration.

According to experts, this move will help improve the quality of life and medication compliance for many of those suffering from the disease in the Kingdom.

Making new oral tablets available will remove the need for patients to undergo regular injections, allowing patients to enjoy a less restricted way of life and improving medication compliance for those who can't tolerate injections, said a top Bahraini expert.

“This new oral medication will be beneficial for two types of patient; the non-responders to interferon injections, which is currently the standard treatment for MS, and those who do not tolerate injections,' explained Dr Isa Al Sharoqi, consultant neurologist and MS expert at the Salmaniya Medical Complex.

'Oral tablets can also be taken abroad more easily than injections which will have a positive impact on the lives of the patients – in many ways oral drugs will improve their quality of life,' he noted.

“I have more than 100 MS patients under my care and there are many more patients being treated by other doctors and at other centres. Most of our patients suffer from the relapsing form of the disease – some are currently well and have few symptoms while others are very disabled,' he stated.

Globally this disease affects women more than men and often begins between the ages of 20 and 40. It can be mild but some people lose the ability to write, speak or walk.

There is no cure for MS but medicines can slow disease progression and help control symptoms, said Dr Al Sharoqi.

Besides visual disturbances, muscle weakness, the MS also leads to symptoms such as trouble with co-ordination and balance, sensations such as numbness, prickling or 'pins and needles' and thinking and memory problems.

Fingolimod, which has also been approved in Kuwait, UAE, US, Russia, Canada, Australia, Switzerland and Europe, has been shown in research papers to be more effective at delaying disease progression than some of the most commonly used current treatments.

Two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year show that fingolimod delays disability progression and is more effective at reducing relapses and brain lesions in patients with relapsing remitting MS compared with the most commonly prescribed treatment, interferon beta-1a (an intra-muscular injection) and placebo.

On the licencing, Dr Al Sharoqi said, 'We are very pleased to have the first oral therapy as part of our arsenal for treatment; we are going to start many of our patients on this oral therapy, especially those who are non-responders and non-tolerant to injectable medications.'

According to a research, in the Arab world around 25 to 50 people in every 100,000 suffers from MS, while about 100 per 100,000 in Northern Europeans display the highest risk of MS across the world, with prevalence seeming to increase with further distance from the equator.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | Novartis | Ministry of Health | Multiple sclerosis | Gilenya | oral medication |

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