The next 10 years should see further improvement in treatment prospects for people with multiple sclerosis, according to a report published by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) today.
The past decade has seen "astonishing" growth in activity in MS research and there is now a substantial number of potential new therapies in the later stages of clinical testing.
There are good reasons for optimism for the estimated 85,000 people in the UK suffering from this debilitating condition, first identified 140 years ago. They are:
"Multiple sclerosis is an excellent example of how advances in medicines are usually made in steps," said Dr Richard Barker, Director General of the ABPI. "It's just a dozen years since the first medicine to treat MS was licensed, and now there is a large number of these in development.
"This healthy pipeline of research would not exist without the previous experience of those first medicines to build upon, and a pricing structure that rewards stepwise innovation."
Multiple sclerosis is the most common disabling condition of the central nervous system in young adults in their twenties and thirties with the number of new cases diagnosed each year estimated at 2,500. While it is not commonly a primary cause of death, it imposes large costs and quality of life burdens through disability - estimated to average more than £30,000 a year per individual in the UK.
The ABPI report, Target Multiple Sclerosis, says the discovery and development of new treatments is a time-and-resource-demanding activity and even with the new options under advanced study, the situation of people with MS will not be transformed overnight.
"Nevertheless, with such intense research activity, this exploration of new ideas is opening up new prospects for disease management," the report states.
It highlights the greatest prevalence of MS in Scotland and Northern Ireland with lower levels being found in south Wales and southern England.
Geographical variation is one of the most striking features of the condition - it is most common in northern countries such as Canada and Scandinavia and lowest in countries near the equator.
"This variation provides evidence for the significance of exposure to sunlight as a protective factor," the report concludes.
Target Multiple Sclerosis has been written by Dr Stephen Bartlett. It can be ordered online and is also available in HTML format. Copies are free.
NOTE TO EDITORS
There is a range of guides in the Target series covering a variety of diseases and conditions. For a comprehensive list, and to view the guides, please go to: www.abpi.org.uk
For further information, please contact: ABPI Press Office 020 7747 1410