DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the country, so last Wednesday activists, including some people with MS, went to the state Capitol asking for more funding.
The activists say more money is vital to pay for caregivers and better access to health care services in rural areas. The meetings were a part of MS Awareness Week.
MS attacks the central nervous system and robs patients of movement. Seventy-three percent of those diagnosed are women. But there are promising medications now helping patients cope.
CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh met a woman named Deb Richman who has had great success with some of the newest medications on the market.
Richman takes delight in the tasks others take for granted. In 2003 she was diagnosed with MS.
“I literally had to pull over and go into a parking lot and sit there and cry,” she said.
She managed her symptoms for six years. But in 2009 Richman experienced what she calls an outrageous episode.
“It affected my vision, my gait, my voice, my cognitive; it affected just about everything about me.”
She couldn’t pick up a coin, she couldn’t deal a deck of cards, and she needed a walker.
“I would have to literally crawl up the stairs with the dog next to me and my hand on the wall.”
Richman tried an IV medication called Tysabri and her life changed dramatically.
“I was like a new person again being able to do virtually anything I wanted to do.”
After two years, because of the risk of complications, Richman was moved to Gilenya, the first once-daily pill for MS.
“It’s an effective medication that we use increasingly. Now about 30,000 people around the world have used it since it went on the market about a year ago,” Dr. John Corboy with the University of Colorado MS Center said.
Corboy cautions Gilenya can have side effects and may be linked to heart problems.
“It is potentially dangerous and there have been 11 suspicious deaths associated potentially with Gilenya, although not conclusively,” Corboy said.
Still, Richman isn’t discouraged.
“I’ll take a chance if there’s a possibility it will make my life better,” Richman said.
She understands it’s not a cure.
“But if they can put us back on our feet and make it so we can function and we can enjoy life.”
To learn more about multiple sclerosis and the upcoming MS Walk on May 5, visit nationalmssociety.org.