- First and only medicine approved to treat two types of MS: relapsing forms of MS (RMS) and PPMS
- First and only approved disease-modifying therapy for primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), one of the most disabling forms of MS
- First and only approved MS treatment to target the immune cells, thought to be responsible for the damage that leads to disability
Dubai, 10th July, 2018: OCREVUS™ (ocrelizumab), a first of its kind therapy for both relapsing (RMS) and primary progressive forms of multiple sclerosis (PPMS), amongst the most disabling forms of MS, is now available in the UAE. Offering renewed hope to patients across the Emirates, the therapy, launched by Roche Pharmaceuticals and approved in August 2017 by the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP), is the first and only disease-modifying approved therapy available world-wide that targets both forms of PPMS and RMS. OCREVUS™ (ocrelizumab) is also a superior to another therapy, as studies show, it reduced signs of disease activity and slowed the disability progression considerably .
MS is a chronic autoimmune disorder for which there is currently no cure . It occurs when the immune system abnormally attacks the protection cover around the nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, causing inflammation (lesions) and consequent damage to the way nerves work. MS is a lifelong condition, but not a terminal illness . Anyone can develop MS; however, it is more common in people with a family history of it, more prevalent in women than men, and usually diagnosed when people are in their 20s and 30s .
The symptoms resulting from the damage can range from muscle weakness, fatigue, vision loss, bladder incontinence, unsteadiness and difficulty walking, to eventual disability. It is the most common cause of disability in young people globally . There are two forms of the disease, PPMS and relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RMS). Approximately 85 percent of people with MS are initially diagnosed with RMS, while 15 percent are diagnosed with PPMS . RMS, the most common form of MS, is characterised by episodes of new or worsening signs or symptoms (relapses) followed by periods of recovery . PPMS, the more debilitating form of the disease, is marked by steadily worsening symptoms, typically without distinct relapses or periods of remission .
“Until now, people affected by PPMS didn’t have any treatment options, which only left patients to hope that the disease wouldn’t aggressively progress. Now, those living with PPMS could hope to enjoy a perceptible improvement in their quality of life, thanks to slower disability progression and reduced signs of damage in the brain,” said Abed Sabra, General Manager, Roche Pharmaceuticals in the UAE.
“While this is a milestone moment for the MS community and Roche, there is still much more to be done to improve the lives of people living with the condition. Increased public awareness around the disease is a must for helping patients come to terms and cope with the disease, and feel better understood and supported,” urged Abed.
A persistent myth about MS is that once diagnosed people should give up work, physical activity, and not have children . However, this is not true: MS is a life-long condition, with which people can still live a full life .
Mr Ahmed Al Miskari, who is Head of Patient Affairs at the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation in Al Ain and also suffers from MS, explained: “Very often, individuals with MS suffer from depression, leave their careers, experience emotional stress and become socially withdrawn. These things are avoidable as it’s becoming easier for people with MS to live a full, rewarding and enjoyable life as an active member of the community. I encourage all MS patients to seek support, and also help foster increased public awareness about the disease.”
OCREVUS™ (ocrelizumab) is unique in the way it targets the immune cells, thought to be responsible for the damage (lesions) that lead to disability, while allowing the immune system to continue functioning. It has also been proven to be an important and more effective new treatment option for people with relapsing forms of MS . As shown by studies in patients with RMS, compared with another therapy, it reduced attacks per year by nearly half, more effectively decreased signs of disease activity, and was better at slowing disability progression over the two-year controlled treatment period . Forty percent of patients with RMS were less likely to have disability progression . In patients with PPMS, compared with a placebo, OCREVUS was the first and only treatment to significantly slow disability progression over a median treatment duration of three years . Twenty four percent of people with PPMS were less likely to have disability progression, and 39 percent saw the volume of their lesions (damage in the brain) reduced .
His Excellency, Dr. Amin Hussain Al Amiri, Assistant Undersecretary for Medical Practice and License Sector at the Ministry of Health & Prevention (MOHAP) in the UAE, said: “Patients’ welfare is at the heart of our mission, which is why we are welcoming innovations like this into our market, as they make a real difference to patients’ and their family’s lives, health and happiness.”
Data on the number of MS patients in the UAE is unfortunately scarce, outdated, and mostly specific to a limited number of medical facilities . A SEHA study, conducted between 2010 and 2014 in four key public hospitals in Abu Dhabi, found there were 510 people living with MS . However, this number is expected to be higher due to all the unreported cases. The crude prevalence rate of MS in Abu Dhabi is estimated to be 18 people per 100,000 , whereas in the Emirati population alone it is expected to reach 64 people per 100,000 .
Dr Ahmed Shatila, Neurology Consultant, Mafraq Hospital in Abu Dhabi, added: “It is wonderful to see such improvements and innovations in the treatment and management of MS. It is crucial of course to raise awareness about the different treatment options patients have, but the most important factor to me is the dialogue between the doctor and the patient. As a doctor, I can’t stress enough to patients how important it is to ask the right questions, not only when first diagnosed but also during the course of their lifetime.”
Dr Shatila suggests the following questions to help patients with MS start the conversation with their doctor around optimising quality of life:
- How frequently does this suggested therapy require monitoring and testing?
- Will this therapy allow me to continue doing the things I am passionate about (i.e. traveling)?
- How much compliance will this therapy need from me? I.e. What happens if I am busy and forget a dose?
- What can I do to improve my quality of life?
- What are things my family can do to help me live a better life?
- What are things I can do to prevent added stress and emotional burden?
- Can I still play sports?
- Is there anything special I should consider with regards to family planning?
- How can I explain my condition in simple terms to my employer and/ or family?
To further raise awareness about the therapy, Roche recently held a workshop in the UAE with healthcare professionals and key stakeholders.