Drug 'game-changer' for Kiwi educator

By Vaimoana Tapaleao moana tapaleao@nzherald co nz

Education consultant Jayne-Ann Young has dedicated more than half her life to making the lives of young people better.

With the help of a new drug being made available to people with multiple sclerosis, she will be able to continue the work she is so passionate about.

The 54-year-old is one of about 4000 Kiwis living with a form of MS - a disorder of the central nervous system that affects the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.

From Monday a new drug, Tecfidera, will be made available to those with MS who fit the criteria.

The drug - to be supplied by Biogen NZ and funded by Pharmac - delays the progression of physical disability and reduces the frequency of relapses. It has already benefited about 2400 people in Australia.

Ms Young, who works for international education firm Cognition Education, travels regularly to Australia, Britain, the United States and around New Zealand. She is also a proud mum to Matt, 23, and Kate, 22, who share a home with her in Auckland.

She may appear to be just another professional working hard to make a difference. But family and friends know she has lived with what can be a debilitating disease for 15 years.

"I woke up one morning and I had basically lost the feeling in the left side of my face. It was just weird.

"It gradually moved down my body and then came up again."

Tests revealed she had relapsing-remitting MS - the most common form of the disease in which symptoms come in isolated incidents.

"Telling my family and friends was really quite scary because what we knew about MS ... was that you were probably going to end up in a wheelchair, it was just a horrible and debilitating disease and it was ending my life as I thought I knew it.

"Once I was diagnosed, it was really a case of coming to terms with it and I had absolutely no idea what my future would hold at that stage."

Over the years she took part in a number of clinical trials and became one of a small group of Kiwis to do the Tecfidera trial a few years ago.

She takes two pills in the morning and again at night, with meals. She has been in remission for the past seven years and credits Tecfidera as the big game-changer - helping her to live her life the way she wants to.

"These aren't a cure, but they're really helping."

Neurologist Dr Ernest Willoughby, a medical adviser to the Multiple Sclerosis Society of New Zealand, said although patients responded differently to treatments, having access to treatments that may help them was hugely important.

Tecfidera

• A drug for people with multiple sclerosis. It delays the progression of physical disability and reduces frequency of relapses.
• Will be available from February 1.
• Supplied by Biogen NZ, funded by Pharmac.
• Has helped 2400 people in Australia.

- NZ Herald

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