Woman with MS denied the medicines she needs to walk

Catriona O'Donnell, who has MS and cannot access the medicines she needs to manage her symptoms.
Catriona O'Donnell, who has MS and cannot access the medicines she needs to manage her symptoms.

A young woman with Multiple Sclerosis has been denied access to a medicine that greatly improves her condition.

Catriona O’Donnell, who’s 33, was diagnosed with MS ten years ago, after she experienced loss of vision, as well as problems with mobility and fatigue.

In recent years her mobility declined and she was given a four week ‘free’ trial of a new drug Famprya which greatly improved her walking ability.

Not yet licensed by NICE (National Institutes for Health and Clinical Excellence) the decision to prescribe Famprya is taken at a local level.

However, Catriona has been turned down for funding and if she wishes to continue taking Famprya must pay the £200 cost every month herself.

Speaking to the ‘Journal’ the Derry woman explained, “Famprya made a massive difference to my life. I was able to cook for myself again and get in the shower without any help. Now I’m back to relying on other people which is very frustrating.

“My neurologist has since told me that it is difficult to get symptom management treatments such as Famprya via the health service in Northern Ireland because funding isn’t readily available.”

Catriona is backing the MS Society’s Treat Me Right campaign which will be running throughout MS Awareness Week which starts next Monday.

“It is unfair that a drug which could greatly improve my quality of life is not available to me, especially as I know of someone else locally who was given the funding. People with MS shouldn’t have to fight to access the medicines they need.”

Talking about her diagnosis Catriona said, “It was a complete shock. I knew absolutely nothing about MS. I was 23 and I thought young people didn’t get things like MS. I suppose I was in denial for a while,

“But I try to get on with it and the support I’ve received from my neurologist, my MS nurse and the MS Society Foyle Branch has been brilliant.

“I have good and bad days but I won’t lie down and feel sorry for myself. I try to stay active and although

“I have to use the wheelchair some days, I’m determined to stay out of it for as long as I can.”

“Twenty years ago there were no effective treatments for MS. Thankfully there are now drugs which can slow the progression of this condition.

“I’m excited by the prospect of new oral medicines and hope that people with MS in Northern Ireland won’t face any delays in accessing these treatments.

“Ultimately, like many people with MS, I hope for a cure one day.”

For more information on MS go to www.mssociety.org.uk or call 0808 800 8000.