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Chicago’s “Black MS Experience Program” Reveals Unique Struggles of African Americans with Multiple Sclerosis

By Jo Marquez

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, nearly one million Americans are living with MS, a disease that presents unique challenges for Black people. The Black MS Experience Program Series brings attention to the distinct experience of living with MS as an African American and offers the opportunity to connect with others, learn from leading healthcare experts and give voice to the unique needs of the Black community.

The misconception that MS is less common among Black Americans compared to their white counterparts has led to a history of unintentional misdiagnoses and inadequate treatments. However, recent studies, such as those published in Neurology and Brain, have revealed that African Americans may develop MS as frequently as, if not more frequently than white people.

Multiple factors contribute to the onset of the disease, including genetics and environmental influences such as geography. Studies have found a higher incidence of MS among Black patients, but the disease tends to be more aggressive in Black Americans compared to white Americans. Effective treatment and early intervention are crucial in managing the symptoms and progression of the disease.

Despite some progress, the presence of Black Americans in clinical trials for MS treatments remains inadequate. For instance, Dr. Bruce Cree of the UCSF Multiple Sclerosis Center noted that Black participation in MS drug trials remains extremely low, with some trials having fewer than ten participants. Both Dr. Cree and Dr. Nicholas LaRocca, a psychologist and consultant for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, emphasize the need for more diverse representation in clinical trials.


Studies examining the efficacy of MS therapies for Black Americans are also limited. For example, the approval of Ocrevus, the first drug for primary-progressive MS and a treatment for relapsing MS, carries significant importance for African Americans, as they tend to have more aggressive forms of the illness.

The event details are as follows:
Date: Saturday, September 16, 2023
Time: 9:30 AM – 2:30 PM
Address: University of Chicago – DCAM
5758 S Maryland Ave
4th Floor Atrium
Chicago, IL 60637
Register for the Limited Spots Here!

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