Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 June 2019

'Breakthrough' treatment for multiple sclerosis patients brings hope to UAE

The £30,000 (Dh155,000) treatment reboots patients' immune system

A “major breakthrough” in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, of which cases in Abu Dhabi are more than twice the global average, was announced in Lisbon this week.

Doctors said they have discovered a way to stop the spread of the chronic disease, which attacks the central nervous system and affects the immune system, thereby reducing symptoms.

The symptoms of the progressive disease differ from person to person and range from numbness and tingling to complete paralysis. The exact cause has yet to be determined, but the condition is linked to vitamin D deficiency, family history and smoking.

A new £30,000 (Dh155,000) treatment clears out the patient’s immune system with cancer drugs and then restarts it with a stem cell transplant.


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Multiple sclerosis cases in Abu Dhabi are twice the global average


The results were revealed at the annual meeting of the European Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation in Lisbon.

More than 100 patients took part in trial in hospitals in Chicago, Sheffield, Uppsala in Sweden and Sao Paulo in Brazil. All the patients had relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) - where attacks or relapses are followed by periods of remission.

After a year, just one relapse occurred among the 52 patients who had the treatment and, after an average follow-up of three years, the transplant treatment failed for just three of them - about six per cent, according to the BBC.

Louise Willetts, a 36-year-old patient from Rotherham, told the British broadcaster the treatment felt “like a miracle” as she is now free of symptoms for the first time since her diagnosis in 2010.

Prof John Snowden, director of blood and marrow transplantation at Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital, said: "We are thrilled with the results - they are a game changer for patients with drug resistant and disabling multiple sclerosis.”

Last month, The National reported that Cladribine (Mavenclad), an oral therapy to treat MS would be available in hospitals within weeks.

A 2016 study revealed that the number of Emiratis in the capital living with multiple sclerosis (MS) is more than twice the global ­average.

The autoimmune disorder affects 64.44 per 100,000 people in Abu Dhabi, while the World Health Organisation estimated the average global prevalence was 30 per 100,000. Low vitamin D levels, smoking and genetic factors may be causes.

Updated: March 20, 2018 12:02 PM