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‘A new hope for MS patients’

September 28, 2017
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‘A new hope for MS patients’

Marking the latest advancements in Multiple Sclerosis treatment, Merck, the leading Science and Technology Company and a Specialty Innovator in Biopharma, in collaboration with the Lebanese Neurological Society and MS medical society held a media briefing session titled ‘A new hope for MS patients’ at Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut.

The panel hosted five MS Specialists from the Lebanese Neurological Society and MS Medical Society: Professor Adnan Awada, President of the Lebanese Society of Neurology, Head of Neurology Department at Hotel Dieu de France and Professor of Neurology at USJ; Professor Souheil Gebeily, Head of Neurology at the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the Lebanese University; Professor Salam Koussa, Professor of Clinical Neurology and Director of L’Observatoire Libanaise de la Sclérose en Plaques (OLSEP); Professor Naji Riachi, Associate Professor at the Lebanese American University and Head of Neurology LAUMCRH; and Professor Bassem Yamout, Professor of Clinical Neurology and Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center for Clinical Research at AUBMC.

The session discussed MS disease and its impact on patient daily life’s, unmet needs with current therapy platform in MS and the recent marketing authorization granted for (Cladribine Tablets) for the treatment of highly active relapsing multiple sclerosis* (RMS) in the European Union (EU). Developed by Merck, Cladribine Tablets is the first short course oral treatment for highly active relapsing multiple sclerosis (RMS) to provide efficacy on disease activity including disability progression, annualized relapse rate and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) activity [1].

Highlighting on MS disease and its symptoms, Professor Naji Riachi, Associate Professor at the Lebanese American University and Head of Neurology LAUMCRH said ” Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune, chronic and inflammatory condition that affects the central nervous system (CNS) and is the most common, non-traumatic, disabling neurological disease in young adults. Relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) is the most common form of MS, and around 85% of people with MS are diagnosed with this type [2]. Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis are variable and not all patients experience the same symptoms. Initial symptoms may be mild enough that patients do not always seek medical care. MS symptoms include fatigue, difficulty in walking, visual problems, tingling and numbness sensations, muscle weakness and spasms, problems with balance, coordination, thinking, learning and planning. Although there is currently no cure for MS, treatments are available to help alter and slow the course of the disease.” concluded Professor Riachi.

Talking about the importance of early and accurate diagnosis and the prevalence of MS, Professor Salam Koussa, Professor of Clinical Neurology and Director of L’Observatoire Libanaise de la Sclérose en Plaques (OLSEP) said: “The diagnosis of MS is a complicated process as it doesn’t rely on a single test, and other possible causes may need to be ruled out first. Once MS has been diagnosed, the type of MS can often be identified based on the pattern of symptoms. MS is associated with a substantial clinical and economic burden on patients, caregivers and the healthcare system, and is more pronounced in patients with high disease activity, where the burden of severe MS – such as disability and unemployment – is very high. Unfortunately, MS patients have to bear the high costs associated with medication, relapses and disability progression”.

Highlighting the needs of MS patients, Professor Souheil Gebeily, Head of Neurology at the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the Lebanese University said: “Multiple sclerosis characteristics have changed over the past decades. Today, a breakthrough in the disease course has been achieved through the new disease modifying therapies, which must be made available to reach and every MS patient. Initiating the treatment at the earliest stage of the disease is a determinant factor in optimizing the beneficial effect on the disease outcome. Each disease modifying therapy has a distinct risk-benefit profile and each patient is a distinct individual patient. Hence, the relationship between the MS patient and his neurologist is a key element for a success full management which should be tailored to each patient’s specific needs. In this regard, social, familial and specific medical support should target for each MS patient good quality of life and wellbeing.

As part of his contribution to the session, Professor Awada said: “Multiple MS patient’s association are available in Lebanon which provide support for patients suffering from MS. Mostly, these MS patient’s association relies voluntarily to do their own activities. These activities mainly focus on raising awareness on MS, providing physiotherapy, and continuous education about MS. Our volunteers are very specialized through continuous training and exploration of MS disease. As well as, Partnership with different stakeholders is a key for MS patient’s association success to develop MS organization’s capacity and strengthen their skills to help and respond better to the needs of people with MS. Finally, the main objective of all MS patient’s association in Lebanon is that people living with multiple sclerosis can play a major role in conquering this disease and continue to be an effective member in the society” added Prof. Awada

Shedding light on the latest advancements in MS treatment, Professor Bassem Yamout, Professor of Clinical Neurology and Director of clinical research at the Multiple Sclerosis Center at AUBMC said: “Several therapies have been launched for MS including treatments for acute relapses with steroids and plasma exchange (plasmapheresis), Disease-modifying drugs (DMDs) treat the underlying immune disorder and result in reduction of relapse frequency and severity. Over the last few years, many new DMDs were added to our armamentarium of MS therapies with high level of efficacy, changing significantly the prognosis of the disease. Some of those new treatments can involve a substantial treatment administration through the intravenous route or a monitoring burden including frequent medical tests. The European Commission (EC) has recently granted marketing authorization for a new oral treatment of highly active relapsing multiple sclerosis (RMS).The new medicine is a selective immune reconstitution induction therapy which simplifies treatment administration by giving just two short annual courses of tablets in four years. Patients can benefit from this treatment over a longer period of time extending up to four years without having to continually take medication and without the need for frequent monitoring, and as healthcare system, we are looking forward to getting this new treatment available for our patients in Lebanon soon,” added Prof. Yamout.

“At Merck, we are committed to find solutions for patient’s significant unmet medical needs. Cladribine Tablets has shown sustained clinical efficacy for up to 4 years with a maximum of 20 days of oral treatment over 2 years. It is a new approach in the management of active RMS. New treatment options will significantly help improve the quality of life of people living with active relapsing MS “said Dr. Hala Sleiman, General Manager of Merck for the Near East Region.

The European Commission (EC) has granted Merck the marketing authorization the 28 countries of the European Union in addition to Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. The marketing authorization is based on more than 10,000 patient years of data with over 2,700 patients included in the clinical trial program, and up to 10 years of observation in some patients. The clinical development program included data from three Phase III trials [3]. The efficacy and safety results of these studies has shown sustained clinical efficacy for up to 4 years with a maximum of 20 days of oral treatment over 2 years.

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