Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – Act Now to Stop Disability Among Affected Patients

Multiple Sclerosis

In recognition of World Multiple Sclerosis Day, Roche Pakistan Limited held a panel discussion to raise awareness about Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in Pakistan and emphasize the unmet needs of patients, particularly regarding awareness, diagnosis, and government funding support.

The panel included MD Roche Pakistan, Ms. Hafsa Shamsie; Roche’s Head of Medical, Dr. Yasir Adnan; and neurologists Dr. Shahid Mustafa (Consultant Neurologist, AKUH) and Dr. Mohammad Wasay (Consultant Neurologist, AKUH).

Dr. Yasir Adnan highlighted that every five minutes, someone in the world is diagnosed with MS. Currently, there are more than 2.8 million people living with MS globally. Although Pakistan lacks an MS registry, it is estimated that more than 10,000 people in the country suffer from the disease.

Given the increasing burden of MS in Pakistan, Dr. Adnan noted that MS not only presents debilitating physical and health challenges for sufferers but also imposes significant difficulties on their families and society.

Dr. Shahid Mustafa stressed the importance of early diagnosis and treatment, acknowledging that the process of obtaining an MS diagnosis can be lengthy. He pointed out that MS is not only a disabling disease but also a stigmatizing one, leading to social isolation and exclusion. He advocated for better MS training and awareness in healthcare settings to ensure patients receive accurate information and care.

Dr. Mohammad Wasay emphasized that MS predominantly affects young people, especially women, and that early and effective treatment can reduce disability. He lamented that most MS patients cannot afford disease-modifying therapy, making government support for treatment essential. He urged the Sindh government to support MS patients, enabling them to become productive members of society.

Ms. Hafsa Shamsie underscored the importance of addressing women’s health issues, particularly since MS is two to three times more common in women than men. She asserted that gender should not be a barrier to treatment. Without treatment, MS can deprive young women of a normal life, leaving some wheelchair-bound for life.

Ms. Shamsie highlighted Roche’s commitment to addressing complex health issues with significant unmet needs. Since 2017, Roche has run a Patient Support Program that has provided free treatment to over 25,000 patients for various diseases, including MS. However, as the burden of the disease grows, she stressed that no single entity can manage it alone. She called for government support to include MS patients in public health funding, ensuring they receive the necessary treatment and support.