0929 GMT October 21, 2019
Iran started to set up a production line for manufacturing autoinjectors for Iranian patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in the past few days, under the terms of a contract with France.
According to experts, only a few certain countries have the technology to build the device. Once the production line becomes operational, Iran will also join them.
Western sanctions significantly harmed Iran's hygiene and health sector over the past few years. The embargoes had forced Iran to suspend cooperation with some of the developed states that used to transfer their modern technologies, experiences and scientific achievements to the country.
Given that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has already gone into effect and the sanctions are gradually being lifted, some of the world's technologically advanced countries, such as France, have resumed collaborations with Iran.
In an exclusive interview with Iran Daily, Mohammad-Ali Sahraian, the deputy head of Iran MS Society (IMSS), elaborated on the advantages and benefits of autoinjectors and the general condition of Iranian MS patients.
Excerpts of the interview follow:
IRAN DAILY: What is the current number of MS patients in Iran?
Mohammad-Ali Sahraian: I cannot give an exact figure; nevertheless, approximately 60,000 people in the country suffer from the disease. According to IMSS' figures, there are 22,000 MS patients in Tehran. The disease is becoming more prevalent in the country. Some 30 out of every 100,000 people in Iran suffer from MS.
What is the reason for the increased prevalence of the disease in the Middle East and, particularly, Iran over the past two decades?
Scientists have not yet discovered the reasons for contracting MS. It is an autoimmune disease which inflicts damages on the central nervous system (CNS) by attacking human body's immunity system. The symptoms of the disease begin to appear following the harms to the CNS. Autoimmune diseases are more common in developed countries where infectious diseases are strictly controlled.
Autoimmune diseases are not just limited to MS. Other autoimmune diseases are widely spreading across the world. Environmental and genetic factors are also effective in the development of the disease. Sometimes, inheriting a certain gene makes individuals highly susceptible to develop the disease. However, it is still impossible to cite a certain reason for contracting the disease.
What age groups in Iran show a higher prevalence of MS?
The disease is highly prevalent in people ranging from 20-40 years of age. Women are three times more likely to contract the disease. Sometimes, the symptoms appear even at the age of four. It is also possible that symptoms arise in patients, between 60 and 67 years of age.
What medications are given to patients suffering from the disease?
There is no definite cure for MS. Like diabetes and high blood pressure, it can only be controlled. Currently, to control the disease, patients are prescribed with interferon medications. Interferons are a group of signaling proteins made and released by host cells in response to the presence of several pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, and also tumor cells. They help regulate the immunity system and reduce attacks on the CNS.
These medications are normally administered through injection once or thrice a week, depending on the condition of the patients. In some cases, due to the severity of the disease, injections are performed at shorter intervals.
How many of the medications are produced domestically? What percentage of the MS patients take foreign medicines?
Some 80 percent of the MS patients receiving interferon medications use domestic products. At present, Iran is almost self-sufficient in producing these medicines.
To what extent did the sanctions harm Iranian patients suffering from MS?
Since most of the medications required by MS patients were produced domestically, they did not face any major problems. However, some of these patients needed a number of foreign medications, who were affected negatively by the embargoes.
Iran, in cooperation with France, has recently initiated a project to build a device, which will help MS patients recover their health to a great extent. Would you please elaborate on making this device?
A large number of MS patients require weekly injections. Due to the number of the injections, sometimes, patients are trained to administer self-injections. Prior to the invention of the device, they used very thin needles, the use of which required a great deal of care.
Patients should inject a certain dose of the medicine very slowly. At times, the injection caused skin allergies and other negative symptoms. To tackle these problems, a number of the developed countries made an autoinjector device with a remarkably high degree of precision.
Also, speaking to Iran Daily on the sidelines of the unveiling ceremony of this modern device, Haleh Hamedifar, the managing director of the research center for manufacturing autoinjectors, said a large number of MS patients have to administer injections 12-15 times a month.
She added it was really essential to produce the device in the country given that it is extremely difficult for patients suffering from MS to move from one place to another and to perform injections, they have to refer to treatment centers.
Hamedifar said the device was invented some three years ago, adding it provides patients with the most up-to-date technology for administering injections.
"Once the production line for manufacturing the device becomes operational, we will be able to resolve a major portion of the problems faced by MS patients in their treatment process."
In addition, she said, once the device enters mass production, Iran will be able to export it.
"China, India and some Latin American countries currently produce the device. Nevertheless, I dare say that the product, to be manufactured in Iran, will posses higher quality. At present, we have only two main rivals worldwide in this regard."
Due to the structure of its needle, the device will help resolve the security problems posed by hospital medical wastes to a significant extent, she stressed.
"Thanks to the lifting of the sanctions, Iran will able to produce modern products and export them. This will shift the pharmaceutical trade balance in favor of the country."