Costly drugs still a hindrance for multiple sclerosis

New Delhi:  The number of patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, a chronic neurological disorder seem to be increasing in India according to experts who say costly medicines remain a hindrance in treatment.

"The disease is common in the western countries. We have seen an increase in number of MS cases in last few years.

We see cases almost everyday now," says Dr Anshu Rohtagi, neurologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

It is estimated that around 20 lakh people have this disease in the world but there is no such data available for India. There are 213 MS patients registered with Multiple Sclerosis Society of India`s Delhi chapter.

May 25 marks the `World Multiple-Sclerosis Day`.

Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic unpredictable disease of the central nervous system. It is an auto immune disorder in which the individual`s immune system attacks the person`s central nervous system that results in the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to lose their ability to communicate with each other.

Consequently the brain is unable to transmit clear messages resulting in loss of body balance, blurred vision, numbness, slurred speech, fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, muscle weakness etc.

"MS is not a fatal disease as it is not life threatening in the sense that it does not kill the person. On the contrary it cripples the person to an extent that within a couple of years the patient is completely bedridden suffering from multiple organ failures," says Dr Rohtagi.

There is no cure to permanently treat the disease and delaying the progression of the disease is the only way out.

According to Dr Lekha Pandit, Director of Advanced Neurology Research Unit at K S Hegde Medical Academy, "the disease has no permanent cure and can be controlled through steroids in cases of relapses so that the patient gets immediate relief. Most of the drugs used to treat the disease are imported and are priced on the higher end."

A patient needs to spend somewhere between Rs 20,000 to 70,000 per month for the treatment and it becomes very difficult for common people to afford the treatment.

"I had a medical insurance but once the company came to know the nature of my disease, it refused to renew the premium. It almost impossible for me to take the further treatment," says Amit Kumar, 29-year-old engineer who was diagnosed with MS two years back.

Wrong diagnosis or delay in timely treatment is another major cause resulting in the progression of the disease.

"Symptoms as simple as tingling may indicate the onset of the disease. But most people neglect such initial symptoms due to lack of awareness about the disease. It is difficult to explain the exact causes of the disease but genetics, environment susceptibility, infections and some unknown factors may trigger the disease," says Dr Pandit.

India started celebrating World MS Day in 2009. MS patients are getting together to join hands in a human chain on May 25 at Select Citywalk Mall in Saket here to raise awareness about this disease.