Multiple sclerosis patients in the Highlands are the first in Scotland to be offered a new drug treatment, a health board has said.
Fingolimod, an oral treatment for a particular form of MS, was approved by the Scottish Medicines Consortium in September. It is designed to help patients with highly active relapsing remitting MS.
Louise Smith, 47, from Thurso, was the first patient to start using Fingolimod, NHS Highland said. She was diagnosed with the condition more than four years ago.
"To date, I have been treated with drug infusions as well as having to self-inject to prevent relapses," she said. "MS can take over so much of your life but I have set up my own business which means I can work flexibly. I do try and lead as normal a life as possible and this will definitely help.
"Now I'm on the tablet I don't have to carry needles, I don't have to worry about where my medication can be stored and I don't have to think about going into hospital. It's only been a few weeks but so far so good."
NHS Highland said a small number of patients are receiving the treatment which is only suitable for a small percentage of people with MS. Previous studies suggest the drug could cut the relapse rate for the disease and reduce its progression. It is hoped the drug will reduce the amount of time patients have to spend travelling to hospital for treatment.
MS specialist nurse Anne Stewart, based at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, said that the first dose is given in hospital and patients then go on to take their tablets at home on a daily basis.
"This is an important advance for us and our patients as Fingolimod is the first oral treatment for people with active relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) who are not responding to their current interferon injections and who fit the criteria," she said.
"Fingolimod is more effective than a commonly used first-line treatment and will give people with RRMS more treatment options. What's more, given the geography of the Highlands where it can be difficult for patients to attend regular appointments, this provides a great solution."
Scotland has the highest rate of MS in the world with more than 10,000 people affected. Up to 700 people have the condition in the Highlands area alone.