SCOTTISH multiple sclerosis sufferers are to be given access to cutting-edge medical treatments for the disease through a new clinical trials unit in Glasgow.
The establishment of the unit, announced yesterday, was welcomed by patients and specialists who say it will provide a much-needed boost to research into the debilitating condition.
Scotland has the highest level of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the world, according to experts, with more than 10,000 people affected.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde consultant neurologist, James Overell, will be testing treatments for MS at the unit.
He said: “This is a very exciting time in MS research and there are many opportunities to try new drugs that are proving to be effective with less risk and fewer side-effects. Our MS patients deserve the choice to try these new treatment options.
“For some who are experiencing the secondary progressive part of the condition, trials for new drugs are their only option.”
MS is classified as a neurological condition which affects the central nervous system. The body’s immune system attacks the coating of nerve fibres, affecting muscle movement, balance and vision. There is currently no cure for MS, but a number of treatments can make a difference in the lives of sufferers.
One of the patients who hopes to benefit from the unit is 37-year-old Suzanne McLean, who is expecting her first child in August.
Ms McLean, who lives in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, said: “Having MS and hoping to find something which will delay or even cure symptoms has become more of an issue since becoming pregnant. I want to be able to do all the things that every mum does with her baby and I want to be able to think ahead to when my child is growing up.
“The trials unit is very important as we need to test new drugs and therapies to give more options to people like me now and in the future.”
The announcement was welcomed by the cabinet secretary for health Alex Neil.
He said: “The Scottish Government recognises that multiple sclerosis is a debilitating condition that has significant impact on the Scottish people, and is committed to providing the best possible care and support for people living with MS.
“Providing access to clinical trials for MS patients, through Dr Overell’s fellowship, is part of that commitment.”
The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurogology Clinic in Edinburgh conducts pre-clinical research into many potentially beneficial therapies for MS, which Dr Overell says is essential and complementary to the unit in Glasgow.
Dr Overell said: “The unit will be able to give patients access to experimental treatments first and faster, although it must be recognised that these are research studies, and any positive outcomes may take some years to be taken up as standard clinical practice.
“The majority of people we see affected by MS are well-informed people who know there are new treatments out there. They’ve been frustrated for years that they don’t have the opportunity to take part in trial programmes to try and sustain their quality of life longer.”