Page last updated at 13:17 GMT, Friday, 6 March 2009

Skydiver hails MS drug treatment

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Mathew Evans is planning to go back to his hobby, sky diving, after treatment for multiple sclerosis.

A man with an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis says he has been given a new lease of life after being offered a new drug for the disease.

Mathew Evans, 27, from Neath, said the decision to begin taking Tysabri was difficult as the drug can cause a fatal brain infection.

He was forced to give up work and his love of extreme sports after being diagnosed three years ago.

He said: "I really appreciate life now a lot more than I used to."

Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease of the sheath surrounding nerves, and affects speech, eyesight and mobility.

Mr Evans was left struggling to walk and unable to see. He said: "It terrified me, to be honest with you.

Mathew Evans
It was very scary but the way I was going, I thought, I've got to take this drug
Mathew Evans

"My auntie has got MS and I can remember thinking 'please don't give me this MS' and when I found out that I had the condition, I was floored. It really shook me."

Then he was faced with an almost impossible choice. His consultant said a new drug could offer him hope, but there were serious risks, including being the one patient in 1,000 who could die from an incurable brain infection brought on by the drug.

Dr Owen Pearson said: "It seemed to reduce relapses by about 70% - which in comparison existing treatments only reduce them by 30% - versus the side effects of a potentially fatal brain infection."

Mr Evans said: "I must admit that was terrifying, about what things could happen to you. It was very scary but the way I was going, I thought, I've got to take this drug."

His family backed his decision to take it. His father John said: "My initial reaction was that there was no way he was going to take it.

Skydive

"But during the coming weeks, you could see that Mathew was getting worse and he had to have it. He had to take that chance."

Mr Evans is one of three patients at Morriston Hospital in Swansea taking Tysabri. He began making monthly visits in September last year.

Tysabri has been approved by the regulatory body and costs around 14,000 for a year's treatment.

However, Judy Rhys, from the MS Society, said the drug did not suit everybody with the condition.

She said: "Certainly it worked in Mathew's case but we have to look at each case individually."

Mr Evans knows will never be cured of MS but said he was happy the drug was keeping the disease at bay.

The former indoor rock climber is is back at work and is planning his next sky dive.

He said: "All the little things, I can do now, which I couldn't [before]. They mean a lot to me."

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