Drug Commonly Used for Multiple Sclerosis has no Effect on Disability Progression
Researchers have recently reported that the drug, interferon beta that has been routinely used for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.), has very less or often no positive effects in the disability development.
M.S. is a progressive disease of the central nervous system usually caused by the malfunction of the immune system. It usually occurs in young adults. In this disease, myelin – material surrounding the nerves – in the brain or spinal cord reduces resulting in muscle weakness, slow speech, poor eyesight and some form of inability to move. Interferon beta drugs are routinely used to treat relapsing-remitting M.S. that is the most common form of the disease.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia worked on 868 M.S. patients treated with interferon beta and compared them with 1,788 patients, who never took the drug. They found no significant differences in the two groups. However, Helen Tremlett, an associate professor of neurology at the University of British Columbia, said that the study does not refer to the uselessness of the interferon beta.
“These drugs were licensed because they reduce relapse and have a better outcome with lesions,” she said. “That has not changed.”
According to some experts these results are discouraging.
Dr. Claire Riley, director of the Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Care & Research Center at Columbia University, said, “It’s a little dispiriting to see this well-designed, well-conducted assessment showing no association between reduction of disability progression and interferon use,” she said. “But the key is that all M.S. is not created equal, and we now have eight approved drugs in four different classes that allow us to better react to patients who are not having a response to therapy.”
“It’s an interesting paper and an important paper,” said Dr. David A. Hafler, chairman of the neurology department at Yale. “If interferon does have an effect on disability, then it’s a relatively small effect.”
This research has been published online in The Journal of American Medical Association.