AIIMS has carried out a study on the patients of multiple sclerosis it treats. It found that around 70-80 percent of patients were in the age group of 18-35 years. They all had relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, the most common of the four types of the disease.
"The onset of multiple sclerosis is typically around young adulthood although it is also observed in paediatric population," Rohit Bhatia, additional professor of Neurology, AIIMS, said at a press conference here.
He added that the major problem in India was the high cost of drugs and the fact that oral drugs were not available. Most of the drugs are the injectable types and cost anywhere between Rs.15,000 and Rs.50,000.
He said the neurology department at AIIMS was seeing more referrals with suspected multiple sclerosis than previous years.
Kameshwar Prasad, professor at the department of neurology at AIIMS, said: "There are no concrete reasons for the cause of the disease and it is not on the government's priority as in India the disease burden is less as compared to western countries."
Madhuri Behari, head of the department of neurology, stressed on the need for proper counselling for people diagnosed with the disease and that most of them slip into depression when they discover that they have multiple sclerosis.
Doctors said that patients will benefit from the two new oral drugs approved internationally for multiple sclerosis treatment which are likely to be available by 2014.
The number of multiple sclerosis patients has increased in India in recent years. It is estimated that there are between 100,000-2,00,000 MS patients in India.
Multiple sclerosis affects the ability of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to communicate with each other effectively leading to disabilities like vision loss and other organ paralysis.