MS Nut not a go-to drug for treating multiple sclerosis - Iran MS Society deputy head

Baku, Azerbaijan, Nov. 23

By Saeed Isayev, Umid Niayesh - Trend: MS Nut (Nutrition) is not a go-to drug for treating multiple sclerosis, head of MS research center of Tehran medical science university, Mohammad Ali Sahraian told Trend.

"The test period for this drug was too short to produce any results. The drug is not even registered in Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education as an anti-MS drug," he explained.

Multiple sclerosis or MS is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, resulting in loss of muscle control, vision, balance, and sensation (such as numbness). With MS, the nerves of the brain and spinal cord are damaged by one's own immune system.

Multiple sclerosis reportedly keeps developing among Iran's population. Fars news agency quoted Sahraian on May 15 that multiple sclerosis (MS) is eveloping among youth in Iran. Sahraian in particular said that judging by the people who come for treatments, it is obvious that multiple sclerosis has increased in the country, compared to 10 years ago.

Sahraian, who is also the deputy Deputy head of Iran MS Society, told Trend that about 60,000 people in Iran suffer from MS, adding that overall the prevalence of MS has increased in the region in the last three decades.

"Compared to the world statistics, Iran stands among countries with high prevalence of multiple sclerosis," he said.

Exporting anti-MS medicine

Sahraian confirmed that Iran exports medicine that can prevent development of multiple sclerosis to some countries, among which are Russia and Syria.

Iran's health minister Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi said, as quoted by Mehr news agency on Nov. 5, that Iran exports $20 million worth of multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment drugs to Russia, without specifying any details.

He did say that Iran plans to increase the $20-million figure to $100 million, adding that currently Iran's total MS drug exports` value reaches $25 million.

Types of anti-MS medicine

Sahraian said that Iran domestically produces some interferons can prevent MS attacks. This medicine, as Sahraian told Trend, is being exported as well.

Interferons (IFNs) are proteins made and released by host cells in response to the presence of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, parasites or tumor cells.

"Iran produces some 1a interferons including Synovex which is homemade version of Avonex, Recigen which is homemade version of Rebif and Ziferon which is similar to Betaferon," he told Trend.

Sahraian added that these anti-MS drugs are nothing new, just similar domestically made medicine to the drugs that are sold in other countries. He added that Iranian anti-MS drugs are of high quality and can compete with similar drugs on international markets.

Sahraian also said that about 30 percent of MS patients in Iran use foreign drugs for controlling MS, while the remaining 70 use domestically made medicine against the disease.

On Oct. 15 Fars news agency reported that Iran launched production line of an oral medication for the treatment multiple sclerosis disease. The researchers of Iran's Osweh Pharmaceutical Company have gone through research for the production of Fingolimod drug. Iranian Health Ministry later issued a licence for the production of the drug in the country.

Clinical studies conducted on the new drug have shown positive effects in patients. These clinical studies over the drug have been done by Iran's MS and Neurology societies. In early 2009, Iran unveiled Fingolimod on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in the presence of former Iranian Health Minister Kamran Baqeri Lankarani.

Fingolimod comes as a capsule to take by mouth. Fingolimod is used to prevent episodes of symptoms and slow the worsening of disability in patients with relapsing forms (course of disease where symptoms flare up from time to time) of multiple sclerosis.

Fingolimod is in a class of medications called sphingosine l-phosphate receptor modulators. It works by decreasing the action of immune cells that may cause nerve damage.

"Decoding the formula of Fingolimod medicine, which is used for treating and controlling the process of MS disease, took place a few months ago by our country's pharmacologists and the Iranian version of the drug has been tested on 309 MS patients in various cities, with fine feedback," Osweh Drug Company's pharmacologist expert Dr. Babak Yazdani told Tasnim News Agency in October.

On September 22, 2010, Fingolimod became the first oral disease-modifying drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to reduce relapses and delay disability progression in patients with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis.

Novartis announced on March 10, 2011 that it had received a notice of compliance from Health Canada and that the drug would be available April 1, 2011 at pharmacies. On March 17, 2011, the European Medicines Agency approved the drug for use in the European Union.

MS in Iran by gender, location and prices

Mohammad Ali Sahraian brought up the latest statistics that indicate about 0.073 percent of population in Tehran suffer from MS.

"The prevalence of MS in some regions, including Tehran, Esfahan and Fars provinces is higher than in others. For example, in Sistan and Baluchestan province the number of people suffering from MS is quite low," he said.

Speaking of the age range, Sahraian said that mostly people aged 20-40 suffer from MS in Iran, while the average age is 27. He further said that women suffer from MS 3 times more than men.

Regarding prices, Sahraian said anti-MS medicine cost from $1000 to $3000 (monthly) outside of Iran, while in the country the exact prices of such drugs are not available.

Speaking about the effects of sanctions on medicine imports to Iran, Sahraian said that while medicine is not under direct international sanctions, they do have an effect, since sanctions target Iran's banking system and money transfers.

He went on to note that, by the end of last solar year (ended on March 21), the problem of MS drugs` shortage in Iran showed itself clearly.

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