Northern Ireland news

Co Tyrone man with rare disease receives first treatment of revolutionary drug

Dermot Devlin receiving his five-hour infusion of the drug Vimizim, he hopes will transform his life 
Gareth McKeown

A CO Tyrone man born with a rare degenerative disease has received his first treatment of a life-changing drug.

Dermot Devlin (36) and his brother Niall are two of just 15 people in the north with the life-limiting condition Mucopolysaccharides Morquio.

Morquio can affect people in various ways, with many not exceeding the height of one metre.

It can also severely affect the respiratory system and cause hearing and sight problems, while skeletal abnormalities can lead to a progressive loss of mobility.

Although there is no cure, a revolutionary drug known as Vimizim was approved for patients in the UK last November, but not in Northern Ireland.

The drug was finally made available by Health Minister Michelle O'Neill in July after a rigorous campaign from people, including Mr Devlin, who launched an online petition.

At Belfast City Hospital on Tuesday the Omagh man received his first treatment of the drug he hopes can "transform" his life.

"It was a long hard fight to get to this day, not just myself, but many others," he said.

"I genuinely can't believe that this day has come. I can see a whole new future ahead of me now that for many years I felt was closed off to me.

"I haven't stopped smiling. I can see myself doing so much in the future. I love travelling, but had it give it up in 2009 after serious health complications.

"I'm getting a bit flabby around the belly, so I am looking forward to returning to my personal trainer in due course."

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