Tens of thousands of vertigo sufferers in the UK have finally been offered hope after a new drug ‘cured’ a victim from West Norfolk.
A 61-year-old man from King’s Lynn, who spent up to seven hours a day vomiting, unable to even lift his head, has been been symptom free for 200 days after undergoing pioneering treatment.
Father-of-one Colin Breeze underwent a series of injections into his inner ear with a new steroid drug called OTO-104.
He said: “From the first injection I noticed improvements. I still had three attacks in the three months but that reduced it from one attack a week to one a month.
“From May, when I had my second injection, I have never looked back. There was an immediate improvement and now I’m able to enjoy life again.”
Colin suffers from Ménière’s disease, which occurs in around 1 in 2,000 people in the UK and affects the inner ear.
Famous sufferers include BBC Springwatch presenter Chris Packham.
It causes vertigo, dizziness and sufferers can also experience tinnitus, hearing loss, and a feeling of pressure deep inside the ear and affects around 32,000 people in the UK.
Doctors don’t know what causes the disease and until this breakthrough were unable to effectively treat it. Colin suffered from tinnitus, also known as ringing in the ear, for two years before he developed Ménière’s and contacted his GP as his symptoms started to deteriorate 15 months ago.
The doctor told him he had the condition and said there was little he could do as no cure existed. As the condition progressively worsened, the once active customer service manager and his wife Christine were left in despair.
Then November last year Colin met consultant ENT surgeon John Phillips, who was trialling OTO-104 at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
He invited him to take part in the experiment where recipients’ inner ears were injected with a thick steroid substance that slowly dissolves over a period of months, helping alleviate the disease’s symptoms.
As the drug is still in its trial stage it is not known whether this will permanently cure the disease.
Colin had his first injection in February and one every three months until September.
The trial has now finished and Colin will go back for a check-up next year when he is hoping to be told the disease has gone for good.
He said: “I cannot tell you how grateful I am that I got this drug because my life was going nowhere. At one point I was having attacks every week.
“Each attack lasted between three and seven hours and I couldn’t even lift my head.
“If you’d said to me here’s a million pounds, get yourself up those stairs or even onto the settee, I couldn’t have done it, it was absolutely impossible.
“It’s the most debilitating thing I’ve ever experienced in my life, the feeling was horrendous. After each attack I was exhausted and had to have two to three days off work to recuperate.
“I thought this is it, I’m going to lose my job and life. I’d adjusted myself to accept that the rest of my life was going to be a misery.”
Mr Phillips said most of the 18 people on the same trial as Colin at the hospital have responded well to the treatment, and he was by no means the exception.
He added: “We can’t really say it’s a miracle cure at the moment because we haven’t finished the stage three of the trial so we do not know if Colin’s recovery was just by chance or whether it was down to the drug but the results are very encouraging.”
Mr Phillips revealed that in another trial carried out in America by the drug’s developer, Otonomy, it was shown to help majority of sufferers when compared with people given a placebo.
A much larger study will be launched in the US, UK and parts of Europe next year to see its effectiveness.
Colin said: “I can’t speak highly enough of the doctors and nurses. It had turned my life around. The disease made my life a misery and I hope that now other sufferers will be able to get access to this drug and not have to endure this horrible disease any more.”
Since being ‘cured’ Colin has been able to spend more time working on restoring his beloved classic cars and supporting his racing driver son Carl, 35. The disease is named after French physician Prosper Ménière’s, who wrote a paper about it in 1861.
Ménière’s sufferers are estimated to make up around 10 per cent of people who suffer from vertigo.
It has not yet been tested on people who suffer dizziness. The hospital was wary of calling the drug a cure but are hopeful that future studies will establish whether it is effective.