Advances in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis have been good news for patients, but side effects and risks mean that an active management strategy and constant monitoring are essential.

These are the findings from a review of this common disease published online today by the Medical Journal of Australia and led by Professor Simon Broadley from Griffith University’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland.

Multiple sclerosis is the most commonautoimmune disorderaffecting thecentral nervous system and is thought to affect about one in every thousand people.

It is aninflammatorydisease in which theinsulating coversofnerve cellsin thebrainandspinal cordare damaged. This damage disrupts the ability of parts of the nervous system to communicate, resulting in a wide range of symptoms and signs, including physical, mental and sometimes psychiatric problems.

“The great news is that patients do not now have to think of an MS diagnosis as a lifetime in a wheelchair. Fortunately, there are now some very effective treatments which mean that this is no longer inevitability, and which can allow them to continue leading a normal life.

“However we do know that most of the newer, more effective therapies are associated with risks and practical problems that necessitate an active management strategy and continuous vigilance.

“All current treatments for MS have some minor side effects and several of the more potent agents are associated with specific risks that need to be managed,” says Professor Broadley.

“It is important to remain vigilant to potential late complications with some of the newer therapies.”

The review also states that monitoring for compliance is also vital, considering the long-term nature of MS therapies.

It states that: “General Practitioners and specialist physicians need to be aware of the potential complications and specific features of MS therapies, particularly in rural and remote settings where rapid access to specialist neurological services may not be available”.

Multiple Sclerosis does not have a cure as yet, however it was only two years ago that Professor Broadley, working under the umbrella of the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium (IMSGC), identified 48 previously unknown genetic variants that influence the risk of developing MS.

The discovery nearly doubled the number of known genetic risk factors and provides additional key insights into the biology of this debilitating neurological condition.

“Getting to the source of this terrible condition is a key focus for medical scientists around the world. This information is a significant step forward in unlocking the genetic code of the disease,” Professor Broadley said at the time.