Merck, a leading science and technology company, took part in the fifth congress of the Middle East North Africa Committee for Research and Treatment in Multiple Sclerosis (MENACTRIMS) – an independent organization that facilitates communication and creates synergies among clinicians and scientists to promote and enhance research and improve clinical outcomes in multiple sclerosis (MS) – hosted on December 6th and 7th, 2019 at the Intercontinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City.
The two-day congress gathered over 700 attendees from healthcare professionals to specialists and researchers in the field of neurology, who got the opportunity to participate in a forum of excellence in MS education and research. Besides presenting 11 abstracts which touch on several important topics for the scientific community, Merck displayed its MS House, giving visitors the opportunity to experience what it would be like to live with MS, confronted with the daily challenges and difficulties of an MS patient. They could learn more about the symptoms of MS and how they affect the human body in different settings.
Building on the collective efforts of the scientific committee, the meeting delivered state-of-the-art presentations on MS by renowned international and regional keynote speakers, focusing on new, ground-breaking targeted treatments in the world of MS, already made available in the region, which are showing unprecedented results and have proven their effectiveness in controlling the disease substantially. Moreover, healthcare professionals stressed the importance of early detection and treatment, increasing efficiency and better control rates.
On this occasion, Paolo Carli, Managing Director & Head of Middle East, Africa, Turkey, Russia & CIS, underlined Merck’s 20 years’ experience in neurology and immunology stating that “Merck is committed to delivering innovative solutions in advancing MS care which aim to help patients to cope with their illness. This commitment drives the company’s research and development to reduce the impact of the disease, slow down the disability progression and improve quality of life of patients.” Moreover, he confirmed Merck’s eagerness to work jointly with regional medical societies, Patient Associations and governmental bodies to address outstanding unmet patient needs in MS.
Additionally, family planning was one of the main topics at the MENACTRIMS congress this year, as several keynote speakers addressed this matter in line with recent research data proving that women with relapsing multiple sclerosis (RMS) may continue some treatments during pregnancy if clinically needed and while breastfeeding. This offers physicians a vital option for managing this chronic disease during a very important time in their patients’ lives and for patients the ability to make their own decisions about starting or expanding their family.
Dr Bassem Yamout, President of the MENACTRIMS and Professor at the American University of Beirut, stated “The last few decades have seen a monumental progress in MS therapies that has been reflected in prolonged disability-free survival in our patients, something we were not used to see 20 years ago.”
Dr Jihad Inshasi, Consultant Neurologist at Rashid Hospital Dubai, UAE, addressed the challenges of Pregnancy and MS with focus on current advances: “Currently female patients with child bearing age planning for pregnancy have approved medication that can be used safely during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Moreover, newer short course medications are available which gives the opportunity for family planning with lower risk of disease activity during pregnancy especially for patients with high disease activity”.
Dr Raed Alroughani, Head of MS Clinic at Ibn-Sina Hospital in Kuwait stressed on the importance of this regional congress as a forum of discussion to improve diagnosis and treatment of MS. “ Many studies and sessions have been presented exploring the increase incidence of MS across all Arab countries, which increases the need for regional registries lead by MENACTRIMS on MS; we have started 2 years ago on this project and we hope all other Arab countries join us in this effort to understand the disease patterns in our region as well as developing consensus and recommendation on best management approaches”.
The incidence and prevalence of MS has risen significantly in the MENA region over the last few decades as observed by several local epidemiology publications and patient registries. MENACTRIMS remains committed to support regional research projects by academic and clinical researchers to enhance the public’s understanding of multiple sclerosis and help improve the quality of life of MS patients in the MENA region.