Wednesday February 21st 2018

‘Give MS research a chance’

MS-researchA Wagga woman living with multiple sclerosis has slammed the churches and government for preventing a radical MS treatment from saving lives in Australia.

Kerri Bland was diagnosed with MS in 1998. At any moment the disease can aggressively attack her brain leaving her blind or, worse, dead.

She’s seen all kinds of treatment options and has spent thousands of dollars combating the illness, but there is one treatment that promises to deliver the best results yet for people living with MS.

It is known as a utologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant and it’s meant to freeze the impact of the disease and reboot the immune system by injecting damaged cells with new cells extracted from bone marrow.

The problem for people like Kerri Bland is that very little is known about stem cell transplantation and trials of the treatment have been limited to two hospitals in Australia.

Australians are forced to travel to far-flung like Russia to undergo the treatment where it is legal.

Ms Bland said the reason why the treatment isn’t widely available in Australia because government policy is being influenced by religion.

“The government and the churches need to get out of it,” she said.

“It’s just wrong. The research shows the stem cell replacement and the chemotherapy that goes with it can help – it can stop the disease.

“It might not work for everyone, but for people with MS – we are willing to try anything to give us back our normal life.”

Ms Bland may be too old to undergo the treatment, but said the strategy should be readily available for younger patients in Australia.

Kathryn Shave, 29, fits the criteria for the treatment, but doesn’t have the money to travel overseas for it – she would if she could afford to.

“Why can’t we have the treatment here?” she said.

“It would give me the opportunity to live a full life. I could travel here, get it done and be a brand new person.” she said.

The peak body representing MS patients, MS Australia, said the treatment is high-risk and only helps people with aggressive, early-onset MS.

“While it is true that several have seen immediate benefit, it is also true that there are people who have undergone the treatment and received no benefit at all and continue to deteriorate,” said MS Australia CEO Debra Cerasa.


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