Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable, autoimmune disease attacking the central nervous system, with substantial impact on those suffering from it. In Canada, more than 100,000 people are affected by this disease, and, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, it is the country that has the highest rate of MS in the world. Although there is no permanent cure, research has enabled the emergence of many therapies that help stabilize and may in certain cases improve the disease prognosis, with remarkably positive effects on the patients’ quality of life in the long term.

“It feels good to know that there’s no more need for medication or injections each week. I’m finally at peace!”

Élodie Côté was only 16 when she was diagnosed with MS. This disease is most often diagnosed in young adults aged 15 to 40. “When I was almost 16, I started having trouble seeing with my right eye. I knew there was a problem because I had never needed glasses and my vision had been perfect,” says the young woman. After seeing many vision specialists, she was finally referred to a neurologist several months later. That is when she learned the news.

Unsuccessful therapies

The young student, who is now 20, tried two different types of therapy that proved unsuccessful. “I had to inject myself three times per week, for a whole year, I really didn’t like that at all. Each time, it would take me 15-20 minutes to talk myself into doing it,” Élodie confesses. Then, she tried a different therapy – in the form of a pill, which was the first oral therapy available in the Canadian market for another year, but that also failed. The disease was making rapid progress.

Two years after being diagnosed, the young woman still had significant symptoms, such as numbness in her limbs and vision problems. At that point, her neurologist recommended a new type of therapy that dramatically improved her quality of life.

A new therapy that works

The therapy consists of the following: the patient is given a daily intravenous infusion for five days and then, after one year, a daily intravenous infusion for three days... For the majority of patients, no further treatments are necessary after the second cycle of infusions.

“The results are really unbelievable and the data we’re gathering is very encouraging. This is an ideal therapy for those who want complete control over the disease,” says Dr. Julie Prévost, a neurologist with Saint-Jérôme Regional Hospital’s Multiple Sclerosis Clinic.

 “The purpose of the therapy is to get the patient into a clinically stable state. So, the purpose is to prevent any new relapse. According to the long term follow up results almost two-thirds of patients no longer need additional infusions.” she adds.

Élodie finds this new therapy relieving. “It feels good to know that there’s no more need for medication or injections each week. I’m finally at peace!” says the young woman, who finished her treatment cycle last winter.

The future looks good

As for Dr. Prévost, she is happy about the advances in research on MS. “We are very lucky because research is making very rapid progress. Here, in Canada, we are among the pioneers in this field of expertise, and new therapies emerge all the time, whereas, 10 years ago, therapy by injection was our only option,” she explains.

Passionate about running, Élodie likes to live an active life and doesn’t let her illness get in the way. “The way I feel right now has nothing in common with how I used to feel when I was taking other medications. The way I’ve felt this year is the best I’ve ever felt since getting sick,” she emphasizes.  The young woman is positive that she will be able to resume her favourite activity in the near future.