Published Monday, 28 April 2014
The MS Society is asking people with MS to review their treatment options. (© UTV)
Recent estimates suggest that there are more than 4,000 people living with MS in Northern Ireland - one of the highest prevalence rates in the world.
Research published by the charity in 2013 found that access to existing MS treatments was substantially higher in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the UK.
However the MS Society said there are concerns that new, life-changing MS drugs are still out of reach for many in NI.
There are now nine MS drugs approved for use on the NHS, but many with MS are not taking any treatment and are in the dark about the drugs that have the potential to alter the devastating impact of their condition.
The news comes as two new, innovative MS medicines have recently been approved for use on the NHS, and up to two more may follow within the next year.
For the first time many of these new drugs offer people the chance to take a pill rather than injections, which could significantly improve quality of life for many with the condition.
Iain Crosby, 47 and from Carnmoney, was working as an engineer at Shorts in Belfast when he was diagnosed with MS in 2005.
He had to give up his job as his condition deteriorated.
It took 18 months for him to get the right treatment.
He told UTV: "I tried everything that I could, I wrote to the Health Minister, I wrote to the UK Health Minister, I wrote to the drugs company, the MS Society, everyone I could possibly think of to get the drugs I knew that I needed to stop myself getting any worse."
Patricia Gordon, NI Director of the MS Society said: "For too long, people with MS have faced significant barriers in accessing the treatments they need, the information to decide what's right for them and the specialists who can help.
"New, effective medicines are emerging that could dramatically change the landscape of treatment for people with relapsing MS, but the years of research that led to their development will count for nothing if people can't get hold of them.
"We understand the pressures the health service is facing, but there are licensed medicines that can transform the lives of people with MS, and it's frankly shameful that they are out of reach for people living with MS."
Licensed medicines can reduce the frequency and severity of MS attacks, and in some cases can slow the progression of disability.
Research has shown that 60% of people with relapsing MS in the UK are not taking a disease modifying MS medicine, despite being eligible.
New figures have also established 26% of people who had never received such a treatment had never heard of the medication and many struggle to access regular support from health care specialists.
The MS Society is calling for people with MS to seek a review with a health care professional to discuss their treatment options and for medical professionals to outline how they can better inform patients about treatments.
© UTV News