Developments in MS over the past 17 years--the MS Forum and The International MS Journal.
When The International MS Journal (IMSJ) first appeared in 1994 multiple sclerosis (MS) was an under-recognized disease of little interest therapeutically. Its frequency was not great enough to interest the major pharmaceutical companies, its cause was unknown and evidence of any major therapeutic effect was lacking.
Seventeen years later, treatments for MS are a multibillion pound industry; in most countries there are six to seven agents licensed as disease-modifying therapies (DMT), and the prospect of a similar number of new agents, both oral and parenteral, seems imminent.
The cause or causes of MS remain elusive, but as more is understood about the underlying genetic and environmental factors and recognized about the pathological processes, more directed therapies are being developed. Already-extant therapies are being improved, and the monitoring of people with MS is more defined and directed.
The initial aim of the MS Forum and The IMSJ was to provide easily understood reviews and summaries of the many complex scientific and clinical advances occurring in the field of MS. In addition, by heightening the awareness of the disease among physicians, it was hoped the excellent services provided by the best centres would become the standard for management of all people with MS.
In 2011 the importance of MS is widely recognized. It is not a common disease--even in northwest Europe the prevalence is little more than one in 1000, but it is the most common nontraumatic cause of neurological disability in the young adult and is a considerable financial burden to society, the family and the individual.
As important as the advances in therapies are, the improvements in diagnosis, information and management are exemplified by the MS-specialist nurse, a role which did not exist in 1995. The nurse specialist is now an integral part of most MS services both at the health-care centre and in primary care. The role of the nurse in explaining the nature of the disease, advising on therapies, monitoring the effects of therapy and providing a link to occupational therapy, physiotherapy and social services is immense. The information provided by The IMSJ and the MS Forum monographs, symposia and other educational activities represent a valuable resource on all aspects of MS.
Now, when the financial involvement of the pharmaceutical industry in the provision of educational material and input into research publications is widely criticized it is timely to compliment Schering AG, and more recently Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, for supporting the peer-reviewed and editorially independent IMSJ for the past 17 years.
Most of the improvement in MS care during these years has been stimulated and supported by the large pharmaceutical companies. The co-operation of companies, who might have been expected to be commercial rivals, and their joint willingness to support national organizations like the MS Societies and international groups such as the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS), the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS), the Latin-American Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (LACTRIMS) and most recently the Pan-Asian Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (PACTRIMS) helps to provide finance for and develop enthusiasm among young researchers. Such provision of unrestricted educational grants has allowed the development of educational resources to stimulate interest in research and the pursuit of excellence in management of the individual with MS. There are bound to be dividends in the future in explaining the continuing mystery that is MS.
Professor David Bates
(Editor-in-Chief, IMSJ 1994-2007)
University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK