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Breakthrough MS Quarterly Update

Winter 2018-2019

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Campaign Progress Report

Welcome to a special edition of the Breakthrough MS® Quarterly Update looking back on two years of life-changing MS breakthroughs accomplished through the commitment and generosity of donors like you. The $371 Million raised to date through the Society’s $1 Billion Breakthrough MS Campaign has expanded our impact on the lives of people affected by MS in new and exciting ways, and we are counting on your continued partnership to extend our impact even further as we pursue our critical FY 2019–2021 Strategic Plan goals. 

While executing a campaign the size and comprehensive scope of Breakthrough MS has been an ambitious endeavor, it has already inspired significant gifts from those who want to make a transformational impact—more than ever before in our history. Since the launch of Breakthrough MS, we’ve received eight gifts over $1 Million each, including the Society’s first eight-figure gift! These trailblazing gifts support a variety of breakthroughs, including the personalized support and solutions that people affected by MS receive through our nationwide MS Navigator® program and new insights into progressive MS solutions. 

The generosity and confidence demonstrated by these and all our donors fuels my passion and resolve that we will reach our goals and one day end MS. As Joan Rubschlager shares her and her husband Paul’s motivation to give one of these transformational gifts to MS research, “We believe that someone, sometime is going to unlock a piece of knowledge that will then help end MS and the host of other neurological diseases that impede so many lives.” Joan adds, “Gifts large and small are important, working together for the cure.” 

I hope you are proud of the progress we’ve made, because we couldn’t have done it without you. And now, we will need your help once again to reach our $1 Billion goal and realize our transformative impact goals by 2021:  


Together we have made incredible progress in the areas of services, advocacy, research and awareness in just two short years and I am pleased to share our impact in this important Quarterly Update issue. I hope you feel as proud and inspired as I do to keep pushing forward to transform what it means to live with MS, and this means we must move quickly to reach our $1 Billion goal!

Thank you for fueling a whole new year of breakthroughs.

Yours truly,

Cyndi Zagieboylo, President & CEO, National MS Society
Cyndi Zagieboylo
Cyndi Zagieboylo, President & CEO
National MS Society

Accelerating Research Breakthroughs

Research InvestmentThe National MS Society has invested in early research that has led to the discovery of every effective treatment for MS, including major therapy breakthroughs in the last two years: 


An international team revised the diagnostic criteria for MS (McDonald Criteria) in 2017 to speed the diagnostic process, reduce the chance of misdiagnosis, and help ensure many people with MS will no longer wait years to get a confirmed diagnosis. 

Society-funded researchers at Washington University showed that intermittent fasting enriched gut bacteria in mice and reduced their MS-like symptoms and inflammation as well as similar promise in a small group of people with relapsing MS. 

The National MS Society leads the worldwide effort to end progressive MS, and recently committed an additional $19 million to support the International Progressive MS Alliance’s work to rally the global community to find solutions for progressive MS. This brings the Society’s total investment in the Alliance to $30 million. In 2017, the Alliance launched three Collaborative Network Awards, which ensures 40 investigators in 21 institutions across nine countries collaborate to expedite new therapies for progressive MS. 

Impact Spotlight

Brian, diagnosed in 1999
Brian, diagnosed in 1999

Local board of trustee member, MS Activist and  Bike MS® cyclist, Brian, is thankful to now have a treatment option for his progressive MS thanks to research funded by the National MS Society. In 2017, Ocrevus was approved by the FDA, a breakthrough for those living with progressive MS —the development of this drug was supported by the Society through early research funding and career support for researchers.

“MS patients for many years were told there is nothing else I can do for you, and progressive MS is just that: it progresses,” Brian says. “I have never liked being told ‘no, there’s nothing else’. Knowing I had something else to try, gives me hope.”

“This new medication is proof and the very reason we fundraise,” Brian says. “When Ocrevus was introduced to the market, I could tell my friends and family, ‘this is how your money helped me’.”

While Brian is impressed with the advancements that have been made since his grandmother lived with MS, he continues to support research to reverse the function he’s lost and ultimately, end MS forever.  “I’m looking forward to what’s going to happen in the future.”

Your Gift Changes Lives

With your critical support, research breakthroughs fuel the treatments and solutions people with MS need to overcome the challenges of MS today with confidence and hope for a world free of MS tomorrow.

Changing Lives Through Services


There are now 339 Partners in MS Care around the country focused on high-quality care—that’s 55 more Partners in MS Care than two years ago.  

4,657 healthcare providers received in-person outreach from the Society and helped connect people affected by the MS to the Society through 9,053 referrals.  





In the United States, 100 percent of people affected by MS nationwide now have access to an MS Navigator who will partner with them to address individual challenges and concerns. 






People who participate in Society programs live better lives—they are less isolated, better informed and happier.  

Impact Spotlight

Elysa, diagnosed 1989
Elysa, diagnosed 1989

Elysa, a former teacher, credits the National MS Society with helping her live her best life. When she was diagnosed with MS, she thought she was going to have a steady decline and be able to do less and less. “I just didn’t know what I was going to do,” Elysa said. 

She turned to the Society to learn how to cope with her disease through online classes, website resources and was paired with a mentor. She learned to expend energy on activities she truly njoys and to break difficult tasks into smaller steps. Elysa set a goal to use her poles more, instead of her walker—starting with going just down the driveway, then to her neighbor’s house and now for a mile. Not being reliant on her walker has much improved her posture, and the poles strengthened her hands so she can enjoy pottery and gardening again.

“It’s like a whole world has opened up, and it’s just been fantastic. And I’m not in pain all the time,” Elysa noted. “The MS Society, to me, is a rock. They’re there for you whenever you need. The Society is amazing because it helps people access information and programs they can use to live their best lives.” 

Your Gift Changes Lives

Your critical support provides life-changing breakthroughs that help Elysa, 
and many like her, move their lives forward. 

MS Awareness WeekIncreasing Awareness of MS

In 2018, the Society launched a new MS Awareness campaign to shine a light on the realities of MS, sharing the stories of how people do whatever it takes to live well, despite MS. nationalMSsociety.org/ThisIsMS

In the past two years, the Society has increased social media followers by over 200,000 people and has been mentioned in 46,300 MS-related news stories, ensuring more people affected by MS know to connect with the Society for the help they need.

Driving Change Through Advocacy

The voices of people affected by MS over the past two years have:
  • Engaged 343 District Activist Leaders and 80,000 MS Activist Network members.
  • Delivered 48,163 messages to elected officials to advance federal and state legislation.
  • Resulted in the passage of 61 state level bills that improve access to resources or services for people with MS.
Passage of the 21st Century Cures Act will accelerate the discovery and delivery of treatments and improve the lives of people with MS by authorizing a data collection system to track the incidence and prevalence of neurological diseases including MS—this National Neurological Conditions Surveillance System was funded at $5 million in September 2018, and in November, the Centers for Disease Control announced its plan to launch the System by studying data for MS and Parkinson’s disease.

In the past two years, MS Activists successfully secured $12 million to fund cutting edge MS research through the MS Research Program at the Department of Defense and $5 billion in increased funding for medical research for the National Institutes of Health.

The Make Medications Accessible Initiative led to numerous successes at the state, federal and private levels: 
  • Ocrevus went on the market with a list price 20 percent less than the average price of MS medications
  • 25 state policies were passed that increase access to medications
Access to Medications

Impact Spotlight

Janet, diagnosed in 2004
Janet, diagnosed in 2004

Multiple sclerosis can be isolating, but the National MS Society offered Janet a way 
to connect to the MS movement by making 
her voice heard as an MS activist. 

When Janet was diagnosed with MS in 2004, she immediately felt compelled to do something for herself, her family and everyone affected by the disease. Despite knowing very little about complex policy issues, Janet has become a powerful advocate for people with MS. “I don’t know what I’m doing,” Janet explained. “But I’ll do anything you ask.”

As a leading advocate in Ohio for legislation involving nursing home care for Medicaid beneficiaries, Janet engaged legislators on the issue of bundling services into  a daily per diem—an issue which would have left people with MS living in nursing homes unable to use their complex wheelchairs because the facilities would not be receiving necessary funds to maintain them.  Janet’s dogged determination to tell her story ensured passage of an amendment which removed complex wheelchair costs from the per diem, and people living with MS in nursing homes were able to have their wheelchairs repaired and replaced.

“Through my role as an MS activist, I take pride and get  so much joy in being that connector and bringing people into this amazing movement to find solutions for some of the most challenging issues people with MS face, including myself.”

Your Gift Changes Lives

With your critical support, we amplify the voices of people affected by MS to influence government and societal changes that remove barriers, create resources, and pave the way for breakthroughs that will change the world for people with MS.

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