I'm getting tired of titling posts "Bits and Pieces", so I cleverly changed things up this time around. Don't be too rattled, though, what follows is still a collection of MS related items that I thought you might find useful and/or interesting...
Image by hitthatswitch via Flickr
- How effective are the CRAB (Copaxone, Rebif, Avonex, and Betaseron) drugs at slowing down the progression of disability in MS patients? Not very, according to some recently published studies. A paper analyzing these results has been making the rounds of the Internet forums for the past week (click here for paper), and the conclusion is that these widely prescribed and very expensive drugs do practically nothing to halt disability progression in the Multiple Sclerosis. The paper does a wonderful job at analyzing this very disappointing data, but I have to respectfully disagree with several of the conclusions it draws from this information. Written by Ashton Embry, who administers the excellent alternative MS site "Direct-MS" (click here) which contains very good information on the role of nutrition in the battle against MS, the paper draws the conclusion that the CRAB drugs are no better than snake oil in treating MS. While the new data suggests that these drugs don't stop the inexorable march of disability in MS patients, the drugs have been shown in clinical studies to cut down on the number of relapses and enhancing lesions (as seen in MRIs) experienced by the MS patients taking them. When these drugs were first approved, the assumption was that a reduction in relapse rate and lesion load would translate into a significant delay in disease progression. While it is a crushing disappointment that the CRABs most likely do not slow progression, to say they are worthless overstates things a bit. The fact is, they do reduce relapse rates for some taking them, which does improve the quality of life for patients with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. Although an improvement in quality of life might be less than what was hoped for, it is still of considerable benefit to those afflicted with the disease. Certainly, the drugs have been overhyped, and overpriced, but patients who had been experiencing four or five relapses a year before being put on one of the CRABs, and only one or two after, would argue that their taking the drug has not been without value.
The fact that research is now showing the CRAB drugs to be of limited, if any, value in halting or even delaying disease progression points to the abject failure of putting MS into a box marked "autoimmune". Countless millions of dollars have been spent developing and marketing these drugs, and billions upon billions of dollars have been made selling them to the captive audience that is the Multiple Sclerosis patient population. The CRAB drugs have been a tremendous boon both to pharmaceutical companies and to the practices of MS specialists, but this latest data highlights the fact that they are only sophisticated mechanisms for symptom management, and that the years spent searching for compounds to better tinker with the human immune system have taken the eye of medical research off of its rightful target, which should have been the search for the root cause of the autoimmune reaction. The concept of autoimmunity has managed to turn MS into a multibillion dollar a year industry, and yes, the drugs that have been developed with that concept in mind have been of some relief to some MS patients. One can only imagine, though, that if the same time, money, and energy had been put into searching for that which causes our immune systems to go awry, we'd be much farther along in our quest for a cure to the scourge that we call MS.
Let me state unequivocally that I am a CCSVI advocate who believes that the hypothesis should be researched as vigorously and as quickly as possible. The recent data regarding the ineffectiveness of the CRAB drugs in combating disease progression makes CCSVI research all the more imperative, and should fuel the clamor of MS patients worldwide to have their voices heard. We need treatment studies, and we need them now. If such studies should by chance disprove the CCSVI hypothesis, then so be it. At least the effort will have been expended in a noble effort to free MS patients from their disease, rather than consign them to a lifetime of indentured servitude to drugs of only marginal effectiveness.
- MS is a notoriously hard disease to diagnose, the diagnostic process being one of exclusion, meaning that other possible conditions must be ruled out before a firm diagnosis of MS can be established. My own diagnosis has been seriously called into question, and there is disagreement between the doctors who have examined me at the National Institutes of Health and my personal neurologist over just what it is that is slowly crippling me. I've been questioning my diagnosis almost from the day I received it; my symptoms and disease course just didn't seem to match what I'd read about Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis and the experiences of others suffering from the disease. Studies have shown that between 5% -15% of those diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis have been misdiagnosed, and are actually suffering from some other illness. Here's a paper (click here) that details the conditions that can be mistaken for MS, and includes a list of 100 such diseases. It's easy to make yourself crazy with information such as this (and believe me, I speak from experience), so be careful not to let this create doubt where there should be none, but if you have serious questions regarding your diagnosis, this paper is an invaluable resource. Knowledge is power, but be sure to wield it wisely.
- Multiple Sclerosis Dreams (click here for website) is a new organization designed to bring hope and excitement to patients living with MS. Similar to the Make a Wish Foundation, MS Dreams is a nonprofit organization that will be granting the dreams and wishes of desperate and needy MS sufferers of any age. Such dreams might include sending them on the vacation a lifetime, meeting someone they've found inspirational, or supplying them with much-needed treatments or devices. The organization will be in the running for a "Pepsi Refresh" grant of $25,000, which you can help them achieve by voting for MS dreams once the internet polls open on August 1. Although a new organization, its organizers seem extremely sincere and devoted, and I wish them the best of luck in launching their endeavor. So, please visit their website, and vote early and vote often...
- Researchers at UCLA have found a possible physiological cause for the depression often suffered by MS patients (click here for info). As if dealing with MS and its associated crap isn't depressing enough, it now appears that the disease causes atrophy of the hippocampus, a region of the brain closely associated with depression. MRIs have revealed that MS causes gray matter atrophy in general, so I suppose findings like this shouldn't be all that unexpected. A more momentous finding would be identifying what causes such atrophy, and may I suggest that decreased blood flow through the brain, such as might be seen in a vascular condition like, say, CCSVI, might be a pretty good candidate.
Of course, zombies also have an appetite for gray matter, but I don't think I've ever seen a paper linking zombies with depression or MS. As a matter of fact, a good zombie movie often cheers me up, so I'm willing to go on record right here and right now stating that zombies do not cause MS. Then again, no zombie flick I've ever seen really identifies exactly what causes zombie-ism, so I guess it can’t be ruled out that MS causes zombies. So be careful during your next visit to the neurologist's office, you never know when one of your fellow patients may try to take a bite out of you.
Well, not the most uplifting collection of information I've ever presented, so let me leave you all with cheerfully healing thoughts of puppy dogs, rainbows, pretty ponies, and...
zombies zombies zombies. It's fun to say "zombie". (Don't forget, I dictate these posts using voice recognition software...)