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Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – Act now to stop disability among affected patients

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In recognition of World Multiple Sclerosis Day, Roche Pakistan Limited held a panel discussion to raise awareness about Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in Pakistan, and to emphasize the unmet needs of patients especially when it comes to awareness, diagnosis, and government funding support. The panel comprised MD Roche Pakistan, Ms. Hafsa Shamsie, Roche’s Head of Medical, Dr. Yasir Adnan as well as neurologists Dr. Shahid Mustafa (Consultant Neurologist, AKUH), Dr. Mohammad Wasay (Consultant Neurologist, AKUH).

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Dr. Yasir Adnan explained; that every 5 minutes, someone, somewhere in the world is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Currently, there are more than 2.8 million people living with MS around the world. Although, there is no MS registry in Pakistan, it is estimated that there are more than 10,000 MS sufferers nationwide. In light of the growing burden of MS across the country, he stated that a disease like MS poses not only debilitating physical and health challenges for the sufferer, but also grave challenges for the families of sufferers and for society.

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Dr. Shahid Mustafa acknowledged that while it can take time for someone to even get an MS diagnosis, it was critical to get a diagnosis and subsequent treatment as early as possible. He stated that MS was not only a disabling disease, but also a stigmatizing disease leading to social isolation and exclusion. As a healthcare professional, he also believed that it was important to advocate for better MS training and awareness in healthcare settings so patients receive the right information and care.

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Dr. Muhammad Wasay said that Multiple Sclerosis was a disabling disease largely affecting young people especially women. Disability related to MS could be reduced by early and effective treatment. Unfortunately, he said most MS patients could not afford disease modifying therapy so government support for treatment was critical. He urged the Sindh government to come forward and support MS patients so that they could become productive members of society.

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Ms. Hafsa Shamsie emphasized that for a nation it was important to solve the health problems of women – especially since MS was about 2 to 3 times more common in women than men. She believed gender should not be a barrier to treatment. MS deprived young women of a chance of a normal life unless they received treatment, leaving some of them wheelch*air bound for the rest of their lives.

Ms. Hafsa Shamsie said that Roche was a company that prided itself on finding answers to the world’s most complex health issues and those where it saw the greatest unmet need. That is why Roche was not only committed to serving MS patients by bringing innovative treatments, but from 2017, Roche has run a Patient Support Program that has helped over 25,000 patients with free of cost treatment for a number of diseases including MS. But as the burden of disease grows no one company or entity can go it alone and the government coming forward to support MS patients and include them in public health funding was critical.

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