OBJECTIVE: Given the genetic disease burden, family size, and the high consanguinity rates in the Middle East, our objective is to address current practices and challenges of DMD patient care within two countries in this region, namely the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, and to outline readiness for gene therapy.
METHODS: An expert panel meeting was held to discuss the DMD patient journey, disease awareness, current management of DMD, challenges faced and recommendations for improvement. Opportunities and challenges for gene therapy in both countries were also deliberated. A pre-meeting survey was conducted, and the results were used to guide the discussion during the meeting.
RESULTS: DMD awareness is poor resulting in a delay in referral and diagnosis of patients. Awareness and education initiatives, along with an interconnected referral system could improve early diagnosis. Genetic testing is available in both countries although coverage varies. Corticosteroid therapy is the standard of care however there is often a delay in treatment initiation. Patients with DMD should be diagnosed and managed by a multi-disciplinary team in centers of excellence for neuromuscular disorders. Key success factors to support the introduction of gene therapy include education and training, timely and accessible genetic testing and resolution of reimbursement and cost issues.
CONCLUSION: There are many challenges facing the management of DMD patients in the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait and most likely other countries within the Middle East. Successful introduction of gene therapy to treat DMD will require careful planning, education, capacity building and prioritization of core initiatives.
RECENT FINDINGS: Genetic testing for familial hypercholesterolaemia is valuable to enhance diagnostic precision, cascade testing, risk prediction and the use of new medications. Hypertriglyceridaemia may be caused by rare recessive monogenic, or by polygenic, gene variants; genetic testing may be useful in the former, for which antisense therapy targeting apoC-III has been approved. Familial high-density lipoprotein deficiency is caused by specific genetic mutations, but there is no effective therapy. Familial combined hyperlipidaemia (FCHL) is caused by polygenic variants for which there is no specific gene testing panel. Familial dysbetalipoproteinaemia is less frequent and commonly caused by APOE ε2ε2 homozygosity; as with FCHL, it is responsive to lifestyle modifications and statins or/and fibrates. Elevated lipoprotein(a) is a quantitative genetic trait whose value in risk prediction over-rides genetic testing; treatment relies on RNA therapeutics.
SUMMARY: Genetic testing is not at present commonly available for managing dyslipidaemias. Rapidly advancing technology may presage wider use, but its worth will require demonstration of cost-effectiveness and a healthcare workforce trained in genomic medicine.