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UAE’s Multiple Sclerosis Sufferers Set to Benefit from First-Ever National Taskforce

The first-ever national taskforce to tackle multiple sclerosis (MS) in the UAE has been created by the Emirates Neurology Society (EMINS), it was announced at a press conference today, in the hopes of improving quality of life for MS sufferers across the country. Acting under the umbrella of the Emirates Medical Association (EMA), EMINS today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Swiss pharmaceutical company, Novartis , to commit to a national MS campaign in the country throughout 2012, starting with the first taskforce meeting in Dubai on 27 January. "Healthcare in the UAE is excellent, and that is a position which we in the professional medical community intend to maintain long into the future. Promoting improved disease awareness - in this case, through this newly-formed MS national taskforce - is a critical step toward ensuring that all UAE residents continue to receive truly world-class medical care," said Dr. Ali Shakar, President of the Emirates Medical Association. MS is a nervous system disease with no known cause that affects the brain and spinal cord. MS damages the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects the nerve cells which slows down or blocks messages between the brain and the body, leading to the symptoms of MS: these include visual disturbances, muscle weakness, trouble with coordination and balance, sensations such as numbness, prickling, or "pins and needles", and thinking and memory problems. "MS is a debilitating disease that affects patients not just physically but psychologically. Armed with increased awareness and knowledge of the illness and treatment options, there is significant potential for patients to better manage their illness and enjoy a higher quality of life," said Dr. Suzan Nouri of the Emirates Neurology Society. "This national taskforce is the first-ever group dedicated to conducting a lengthy national campaign aimed at raising awareness and educating the general public, patients, and the medical community from every perspective," added Dr. Nouri, who is also a member of the UAE MS Society and has several affiliations with neurology and MS societies worldwide, including the American Neurology Society and the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis. The taskforce is composed of neurologists, nurses, patients, rehabilitation specialists, and psychologists, and will embark upon a year-long campaign of tours, speaking events, fundraising, and other awareness activities. With as many as 1,000 reported MS sufferers in the UAE, the taskforce is set to help improve the quality of life and medication compliance for many of those affected with the disease. Research figures show MS affects around 25 to 50 people in 100,000 in Arabic populations and about 100 per 100,000 in Northern Europeans who display the highest risk of MS across the world, with prevalence seeming to increase with further distance from the equator [1]. Globally, MS affects women more than men [2] and often begins between the ages of 20 and 40. The disease can be mild but some people lose the ability to write, speak or walk. There is no cure for MS, but medicines can slow disease progression and help control symptoms. "We are committed to combating MS in the UAE, and partnering with EMINS in this first-ever national campaign will help garner support and understanding from the public and other medical professionals, and help patients have access to the best possible care to assist them in leading a normal life," said Walid Kattouha, Head of Middle East Cluster at Novartis .

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