Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

New drugs bring more hope for MS

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Patrick Kear was diagnosed with MS in 2002. Photo/Ruth Keber
Patrick Kear was diagnosed with MS in 2002. Photo/Ruth Keber

Patrick Kear's face started going numb a week before his 30th birthday.

"I thought it was an ear infection and that's what I was being treated for.

"It was numb for six weeks. My right foot then went numb. Then both feet went numb.

"Nothing was working, my feet weren't working, my ankles didn't work. My legs did but I could not stand up by my own."

A few months later, in 2002, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Next month MS patients like him across the country will have access to a new treatment, with news Pharmac will fund the drugs Tecfidera and Aubagio.

With these next two we are hoping again to make the same change for people's lives.
Malcolm Rickerby

The drugs help delay the progression of physical disabilities through MS and reduce the frequency of relapses.

President of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of New Zealand Malcolm Rickerby said with 4000 people in the country who suffer from the disease the two new drugs would be welcomed.

Mr Rickerby said MS New Zealand had been working with different neurologists and Pharmac for the past 18 months to get new drugs funded here. The same drugs have been available in other countries for up to six years, he said. Last year two other drugs, Gilenya and Tysabri, were released to the market, he said.

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"As of Monday another two new drugs, Tecfidera and Aubagio, will be released which is really fantastic news.

"The first two drugs have allowed a number of people to go back to work full-time jobs and be useful around their community and households. It's amazing the difference it has made.

"With these next two we are hoping again to make the same change for people's lives."

Neurologist Dr Ernest Willoughby welcomed the new options for MS patients.

"New Zealanders with multiple sclerosis need affordable access to effective treatments that slow the progression of this disease.

"Different patients respond to different treatments and side effects vary, so access to new treatment options is an important step forward in the management of multiple sclerosis."

Mr Kear, 44, said it was great to have more drugs available to treat sufferers of MS.

"The thing with MS is, if you have 100 people in the room and they all have MS, they will all be different, they will all start differently and all end differently.

"The majority of time, MS won't kill you, it just kills your life. It doesn't kill you."

Keeping positive, moving from the UK to New Zealand (a vitamin D rich country), his wife Sophronia and the drug Gilenya have got him through his MS journey so far and kept him in full-time work, he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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