On Saturday, November 1st, 2015, I attended the UBC NMO Patient Information Day. There were a number of topics covered, including Patient Experiences, Pediatric NMO, Sexual Health, Pain Symptom Management, Current & Future Disease Modification Therapies for NMO, an update on the NMO Walk/Run and an update from the MS Society. As you can see, the day was jam packed!
The most exciting thing to come out of the day was that in Canada we are, as of THIS WEEK able to finally join the CIRCLES* Studies. The ability for NMO patients to give blood for the biorepository** has been in place for quite some time in the US, but because Canada has different rules and ethics around a study like this, Canadian NMO patients have had to wait while all the red tape was dealt with. Now, that wait is over- UBC has begun enrolling patients in the study!
The other really important thing that was discussed was a petition that has been started, urging the provincial government to approve and fund Rituximab*** for NMO patients. Currently, Canadian NMO patients can get compassion coverage of about $3000 towards the cost of the drug, but the remaining balance must come from the patient or via third party insurance. The cost is prohibitive for most patients. In conversation with our local NMO clinic, arrangements are being made to have this petition available online and to extend the request to include that the federal government approve coverage Canada wide.
For those of you who are interested, I did manage to live tweet from the conference and you can review those tweets on Twitter, by searching the hashtag #UBCNMOday . I know there were several people from the NMO community following along and I was pleased to be able to help include them in the day’s events in this way.
The next NMO event coming up will be NMO Patient Day in Los Angeles on March 4th, hosted by the Guthy-Jackson Foundation. I am hoping to be able to go to learn more about what’s being done to help those of us living with this disease. If I am able to attend, I will of course report back and let you know what I learned!
*The Collaborative International Research in Clinical and Longitudinal Experience for Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO) Studies. This work is funded by the Guthy-Jackson Charitable Foundation for NMO research.
**Biorepositories are “libraries” where biospecimens (materials taken from the body, such as blood) are stored and made available for scientists to study for clinical or research purposes.
*** An immunosuppressive agent, given intravenously to prevent NMO attacks.