New study

01 Oct

New study highlights growing number of people living with multiple sclerosis in the UK.

The study at the University of Dundee, funded by MS National Therapy Centres (a national charity supporting member Centres across the UK and Eire), has found that the number of people being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the UK is falling but the population of those living with the disease is growing as patients are living longer.

Researchers say the findings have significant implications for resource allocation for MS in the UK.

Over two decades between 1990 and 2010 the number of people living with MS increased by about 2.4% a year, despite a fall in the number of people being newly diagnosed with MS over this period.

This was because people with MS are living longer - mortality rates fell by about 3% per year over the same twenty year study period.

Dr Isla Mackenzie, Clinical Senior Lecturer at the Medicines Monitoring Unit (MEMO) at the University of Dundee, led the study. She said, “Our research covers four million patients from a representative sample of GP practices spread throughout the UK. This study provides an up to date national picture of the epidemiology of MS in the UK.”

“It is important to have this information on the prevalence of MS in order to understand the impact of this disease and to ensure that adequate resources are provided both nationally and regionally for people affected by MS.”

The researchers estimate that, in the UK, just over 6,000 people were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) during 2010 and there were nearly 127,000 people living with the condition.

The peak age at which MS was diagnosed was between 40 and 50 years. MS is much more common in women than in men - 72% of people living with MS in 2010 were women. MS is also more common in Scotland than in other regions of the UK. 

Dr Jonathan O’Riordan, Consultant Neurologist at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, said, “There are probably genetic and environmental factors at play to explain why it is more common in Scotland.”

Dr O’Riordan added, “The vast majority of newly diagnosed patients will have the relapsing remitting form of the disease and will be eligible for consideration of disease modifying therapies. These can cost anywhere from £5,500 to nearly £20,000 per year. This has ongoing cost implications for health care providers.” 

The study used data from the General Practice Research Database (GPRD) which contains patient records from 8% of GP practices in the UK.

The study was funded by the Multiple Sclerosis National Therapy Centres (MSNTC), a registered charity. Neil Kemsley, Chairman of MSNTC, said, “As more people in the UK are living longer with MS, the help and support provided by the network of Therapy Centres throughout the country will become even more valuable and important in helping them to achieve the best possible quality of life.”

Mrs Jenny Wilson-Best, a client and Ambassador for Revive MS Support told us: ‘When I was diagnosed with MS a few years ago I didn’t know where to turn.  I have been a successful opera singer for 30 years singing all over the world.  I had to come to terms with the fact that my body was letting me down and could no longer do the job that I loved.  I felt emotionally and physically that I was no longer able to be the same person.  I couldn’t be the wife I wanted to be or the friend I have always been.  I walked through the doors of Revive MS Support and gradually found I could be all these things…and more.

Revive offer many different therapies but for me it was the ‘Fatigue Management Group’ that allowed me to find myself again. I renamed it ‘Anger Management’, then ‘Sadness Management’ and finally to ‘Acceptance Management’.  I cried a lot but I don’t cry anymore. Now I get on with my life and live it to the full.  I still suffer fatigue and chronic pain and have learnt how to use my wheelchair, but thanks to Revive I have found a path upon which I can walk.’

The paper (http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/early/2013/09/19/jnnp-2013-305450.full )

 Or: http://jnnp.bmj.com/cgi/rapidpdf/jnnp201305450?ijkey=0zzhuuyy5gbLhxN&keytype=ref

 Incidence and prevalence of multiple sclerosis in the United Kingdom 1990-2010: A descriptive study in the General Practice Research Database.  I S Mackenzie, S V Morant, G A Bloomfield, T M MacDonald, J O’Riordan, Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry