World MS Day: Nigeria has only 80 registered neurologists — Experts

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With a population of over 206 million citizens, Nigeria has only about 80 registered neurologists in the country, a disproportionate figure which points to a gross inadequacy of medical specialists with expertise in diagnosing and treating diseases of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves.

This was part of the views expressed by experts during a webinar organised by Roche Nigeria in commemoration of the World Multiple Sclerosis Day (World MS Day)

A Consultant Neurologist from the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Dr. Peter Alabi, said approximately 2.8 million people are living with Multiple Sclerosis in the world and 60% of those living with the condition are women.

In Nigeria, he said an estimated 10,048 people are living with MS and that the diagnosis of the condition remains a stress area, with numerous challenges such as limited access to diagnostic tools, serology testing, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Other challenges, he said, include low disease awareness amongst the public and limited access to medications required to manage the disease.

“Multiple Sclerosis was believed initially to be a condition found amongst white people, particularly those of Northern European descent. However, in recent times more cases are showing up amongst Blacks and Africans in general.

“Though the presentation in Africa is fairly recent, the disease can be managed by Neurologists available at any of the Teaching hospitals in the country. A Neurologist is able to provide a patient with individualised management of the symptoms and slow disease progression; as well as advise on home care and support, depending on the symptoms and signs presented,” he said

The Consultant Neurologist stressed that the value of the World MS Day in raising awareness, driving acceptance and inclusion, and shifting the public consciousness favourably with regards to the condition.

The General Manager, Roche Nigeria, Dr. Ladi Hameed, emphasised the need for more concerted efforts to be made in achieving the purpose of World MS Day.

He said that Roche plans to map MS patients’ journey by identifying data gaps, launching clinical trials to understand how MS affects a typical African patient. He also said that the company is willing to collaborate with stakeholders to develop data registries as well as work with MS patient groups within the country to reduce the stigma and increase awareness.

“Over the years, Roche Products Limited has demonstrated its commitment to strengthening Nigeria’s healthcare system. Understanding MS disease progression and educating the public on basic symptoms will lead to timely referrals to specialists in the hospitals and improve the lives of these patients. In addition, working with Neurologists, the Federal Ministry of Health, diagnostic centres for laboratory testing, imaging, and engaging local patient support groups will address the unique health care system challenges that disrupt access to MS diagnosis and its management,” he said.

World MS Day is typically observed on May 30 each year and the theme for the year 2022 is CONNECTIONS.