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Menzies study looks at long-term benefits of MS treatment























Menzies’ MS researcher Bruce Taylor.

TASMANIAN researchers are embarking on a world-first investigation into whether existing drug treatments alter the long-term outcome for people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

MS medications are among the top 10 most expensive drugs in Australia, and in Australia 95 per cent of people with MS are treated.

The research is among a host of new MS projects at the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research following $500,000 in new grants this year.

Project leader Professor Bruce Taylor said MS drugs had been available in Australia for 20 years and were known to be effective in reducing disease relapses or attacks.

But there had been no research into whether a patient’s long-term outcomes were affected.

“We will be trying to find out whether those on treatment acquire less disability over the course of their disease than those who are untreated,” Prof Taylor said.

“Do the drugs make people any better in 10, 15 or 20 years?” he said.

Prof Taylor, who is the centre’s longest serving MS researcher with 20 years’ experience, said his hypothesis was that the drugs were a long-term benefit.

The project, which has attracted $180,000 in funding from MS Research Australia, will compare the disease outcomes of 700 Australians against 700 New Zealanders with MS.

In New Zealand MS drugs are not widely available, resulting in fewer than 20 per cent of the population being treated.

In Australia 95 per cent of sufferers are treated because the Federal Government funds the medication, which costs between $12,000 and $25,000 per year per patient.

“The cost is significant and we need to know that we are doing the right thing,” said Prof Taylor.

Tasmania has Australia’s highest incidence of MS, with 750 known sufferers in the state.

The risk of acquiring MS in Tasmania is five times higher than in Queensland, because of the southern state’s reduced exposure to sunlight and vitamin D.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by THEMERCURY
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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