Multiple sclerosis is a serious, unpredictable and often debilitating disease that affects the central nervous system. And each day in Canada, at least three people are diagnosed with MS.
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News Canada Information for Life Sherri Dmyterko: Like thousands of Canadians, Lucia Reynolds of Ottawa is living with Multiple Sclerosis. Lucia Reynolds: It was diagnosed with MS three years ago. At that time I was experiencing symptoms of numbness on the left side of my face, lost concentration and focus, fatigue, loss of balance, coordination. So when the doctor told me that I had MS and I was shocked, I was devastated and frightened for what my future would be like. Sherri Dmyterko: Recently, Health Canada has approved a new indication for the drug Betaseron making it the only high dose, high frequency therapy approved for treatment of the earlier stages of MS in Canada. Dr. Mark Freedman is a professor of Neurology at the University of Ottawa and a primary investigator of the BENEFIT clinical trial for Betaseron. Dr. Mark Freedman: We learned that in MS irreversible damage occurs early. You want to be able to identify a patient therefore who is at high risk of going on to develop MS even after the first time they present. In the BENEFIT study that's the patient group we focused on. We were looking at the placebo group and saw that 85% of those patients indeed went on to develop MS, but by giving them Betaseron we prevented that risk by 50%. Sherri Dmyterko: Until now there has been no safe high-dose high-frequency treatment available to patients who had experienced a single clinical episode suggestive of MS to delay or prevent the progression of the disease. Dr. Mark Freedman: Health Canada's approval of Betaseron now gives our patients another option for superior high-frequency, high-dose medication to delay further development of irreversible damage and hopefully stave off progression. Knowing that early disease is irreversible, it's so important for patients to recognize early symptoms of MS and seek out proper neurological consultation so a diagnosis can be made at least that they are at a high risk of developing the disease and then be given the treatment options one of which would be Betaseron. The makers of Betaseron have a 24-hour support network and in that network are professionals who understand MS, who can explain to patients about their disease, who can discuss the medications and its side effects and even help with reimbursements. Lucia Reynolds: When I had the opportunity to participate in the BENEFIT study it gave me a sense of hope and it was like a light at the end of the tunnel, because the doctors have told me there is no cure for this and there is no treatment for someone who is first diagnosed with the first attack of MS. For people who have MS or have been diagnosed with MS or those who aren't even on any kind of treatment I would suggest -- I strongly recommend that they go see their doctor and explore the treatment that are out there, because being on the Betaseron has given me control of my life. Sherri Dmyterko: For more information about Multiple Sclerosis and treatment options speak with your doctor. Free 24 hour information and support is also available by calling MS Pathways at 1-800-977-2770 or online at www.mspathways.ca. Sherri Dmyterko reporting.

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