Beta interferon is prescribed in some areas, but not in others
Monday, April 19, 1999 Published at 08:00 GMT 09:00 UK
A free helpline is being set up to help people suffering from the disabling condition multiple sclerosis.
The Multiple Sclerosis Society will run the helpline which is being launched to mark MS Week.
It will provide information and counselling for people with what is the most common disabling neurological condition among young adults in the UK.
Around 50 people, usually between 20 and 40, are diagnosed with MS every week and there are estimated to be 85,000 sufferers in the UK.
There are various different types of the condition which affects movement, sight, speech and continence.
Symptoms may come and go or can get progressively more disabling. The helpline will be manned by staff and trained volunteers from 9am to 9pm, Monday to Friday.
Volunteers will include people with MS and staff will include specialists in new therapies, benefits and symptom management.
The number is 0808 800 8000.
The MS Society is also relaunching its website - found at http://www.mssociety.org.uk - as part of MS Week which runs until 25 April. The new site will have more information and a new format.
Yachtswoman Tracy Edward will take part in MS Week as her mother has MS The society is also highlighting the continuing health lottery in the prescription of beta interferon, a drug which has been found to help people with less severe symptoms.
A recent report by the MS Society found that many health authorities are rationing the drug.
Peter Cardy, chief executive of the MS Society, said: "We are looking for equal access to consistent, high quality services for many people who are getting a very raw deal from the so-called National Health Service."
The government's new National Institute for Clinical Excellence, which began work this month, is to examine the drug as part of its work to ensure national standards of care in the NHS.
Other events planned for MS Week include a celebration on board a 46-foot yacht which will sail around the UK this year, crewed in relay by people with MS.
The MS Society, which for the first time has a chairman with the condition,
wants to draw attention to the fact that people with MS can still lead
an active life.