According to the latest Atlas of MS, there are currently 4,355 people living with MS in Iraq. 577 people are diagnosed with MS every year, equating to 48 new diagnoses each month.
Al-Hayat Association works to secure a range of treatments for people with MS in Iraq. One of the treatments in question is rituximab. Rituximab is normally licensed for other conditions, but is also used to treat MS in many countries. Until the start of 2019 the Iraqi Ministry of Health supplied rituximab to the MS Centres, but there was not enough for many people with MS who needed it. The available rituximab had to be prioritized for people with the most severe cases of MS. In February 2019 the Ministry of Health suddenly withdrew the arrangement with MS centres, leaving many people with MS without access to rituximab. This was the moment that sparked Al-Hayat Association’s campaign.
Al-Hayat Association launched a campaign lobbying the Ministry of Health to provide more rituximab for people with MS. The MS organisation held meetings with ministry officials and decision makers and collaborated with MS neurologists, providing the Government with medical evidence in support of the campaign.
After months of hard work from Al-Hayat Association, the National Medicines Selection Authority – which sits within the Iraqi Ministry of Health – agreed to provide a larger annual quota of rituximab in August 2019. As a result of Al-Hayat’s campaign, the quota of rituximab was increased and now covers the needs of people living with MS across Iraq. Despite the obstacles, Al-Hayat Association was able to secure better access to treatment for people living with MS.