LONDON Oct 2 The number of people living with
multiple sclerosis around the world has increased by 10 percent
in the past five years to 2.3 million, according to the most
extensive survey of the disease to date.
The debilitating neurological condition, which affects twice
as many women as men, is found in every region of the world,
although prevalence rates vary widely.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is most common in North America and
Europe, at 140 and 108 cases per 100,000 respectively, while in
sub-Saharan Africa the rate is just 2.1 per 100,000, the
Multiple Sclerosis International Federation's Atlas of MS 2013
showed on Wednesday.
The atlas also confirmed that MS occurs significantly more
in countries at high latitude, with Sweden having the highest
rate in Europe and Argentina having more cases than countries
further north in Latin America.
The reason for the link to high latitudes is unclear but
some scientists have suggested that exposure to sunlight may
reduce the incidence of the disease.
The survey found a big increases in the number of medical
experts trained to diagnose MS and help patients with treatment,
while the number of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines
available to carry out scans has doubled in emerging countries.
But huge disparities remain when it comes to access to
modern disease-modifying drugs.
MS medicine has seen a number of advances in recent years,
particularly with the introduction of a new generation of oral
therapies such as Novartis' Gilenya, Biogen Idec's
Tecfidera and Sanofi's Aubagio.
These medicines offer an effective alternative to older
disease-modifying treatments that are given by injection.
The survey found that injectable drugs like Biogen's Avonex
and Teva's Copaxone were partly or fully funded in 96
percent of high-income countries, while Gilenya was available in
However, none of these drugs was available under government
programmes in low-income countries.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Alistair Lyon)