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Increased demand for MS services 'reflect difficult times'

MS Ireland is calling for improved access to medication for people with MS.

File photo of scientists working at Biogen Idec, which developed Tysabri.
File photo of scientists working at Biogen Idec, which developed Tysabri.
Image: Charles Krupa/AP/Press Association Images

NEW FIGURES FROM MS Ireland show increased demand for the organisation’s services in the first quarter of this year.

MS Ireland is calling on the  government to improve access to treatments for people with MS such as Tysabri and Gilenya. The organisation says that the drugs are “widely available” to MS sufferers in other EU countries and are used to treat relapsing-remitting MS.

Tarragh Donohoe of MS Ireland told TheJournal.ie that both drugs are considered ‘second-line’ treatment and that if people with MS are not taking those, then it’s likely they’re not getting any treatment at all.

“Tysabri is currently available on hospital budgets, but most don’t stretch to actually cover it,” Donohoe said. Meanwhile, Gilenya has been on the HSE reimbursement list “for months” but has not yet been approved for the scheme.

Donohoe said that MS Ireland believes “people should have as much choice as possible when it comes to their treatment”, but that people with MS should talk to their neurologist before starting any new treatment as the drugs have side effects.

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According to its report for the first quarter of 2012, the organisation provided a home visit service to 1,757 people with MS around Ireland (up from 1,524 in Q1 2011).

Over the first three months of this year, 89 people who were recently diagnosed with MS requested a home visit from MS Ireland – up from 72 for the same period of last year. The organisation also provided 234 individual physiotherapy and exercise classes, and 63 counselling and personal development sessions.

MSI’s chief executive Ava Battles says that the increased demand for services “reflects the difficult times people with MS face”.

“In addition to the nationwide impact of reduced income and cuts, people with MS also have to cope with the added expenses of living with a disability, reduced care packages, cuts in housing grants and denial of vital services, benefits and treatments.”

Battles also appealed to the public to help the organisation fundraise for the continued provision of services: “The extra demand on services means we need to fight harder for appropriate funding from the government and work harder to fundraise.”

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