MS lifeline as drug that can slow disease listed
Patients living with multiple sclerosis have been granted a lifeline with the federal government listing a drug that can help slow down the progression of the disease.
The move will mean all patients who might benefit from "Mayzent" will only have to pay $41 per script rather than the estimated $25,000 yearly cost.
Multiple sclerosis, known as MS, is the most commonly acquired neurological disease in younger adults with more than 25,600 Australians living with the condition.
The average age of diagnosis is only 30 with around 75 per cent of those affected being women.
While some patients go into remission, around half of those diagnosed go on to the secondary progressive phase where mobility gradually deteriorates.
Up until the release of the drug Mayzent, patients who entered this phase had to rely largely on physical therapies to manage the disease with few - if any - effective drugs available.
Brain and Mind Centre MS clinic co-director, Dr Todd Hardy, said siponimod, which is sold under the brand-name Mayzent, was the first drug available that had been shown to be effective on secondary MS in clinical trials.
Like other MS drugs, it worked by helping stop the immune system from attacking the central nervous system.
"The majority of people who are first diagnosed with MS have relapsing remitting MS, where they have attacks that come and go over many years," Dr Hardy said.
"After 15 to 20 years, the attacks become less frequent, and there is instead just a progressive deterioration in their mobility, which is what we call secondary progressive MS
"The way this drug is cause lymphocytes, which are part of the immune system, become trapped in the lymph nodes so they can't get out into the spinal chord and brain to cause damage. It has a modest effect, but it is significant because it is first drug that has been shown to have an effect on secondary MS in clinical trials."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose brother-in-law Gary Warren has MS - although will not benefit from Mayzent - said the listing give sufferers hope while helping them reclaim their lives.
"In our family we know first-hand the difficulties of this awful disease, like so many other Australians," he said.
"I am overwhelmed by the courage and perseverance of those who live with MS. It's a daily fight.
"This medicine will provide more support to those patients and their families for a better way of life."
From 1 November, the Government will invest more than $86 million over the next four years to provide greater access to life saving medicines for Australians living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and various forms of cancer.
Other listings will benefit patients with a rate type of lymphoma which affects the skin, as well as carcinoma and reproductive cancers.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Government would continue to list medicines as the medical experts recommended them.
"These medicines will help Australians, and as the medical experts recommend them, we'll list them," he said.
Originally published as MS lifeline as drug that can slow disease listed