More MS news articles for August 2000

Longest Study of Multiple Sclerosis Drug Shows That Benefits Continue For Six Years
Tuesday August 22, 8:32 am Eastern Time
Press Release
SOURCE: University of Maryland
BALTIMORE, Aug. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Results of a six-year study show that sustained use of the drug Copaxone significantly reduces the relapse rate and also delays disability in people with the relapsing- remitting form of multiple sclerosis (MS). The study, which is published in the August issue of Multiple Sclerosis, is the longest evaluation so far of a licensed MS therapy. The study is scheduled to continue until mid-2002, when participants will have been evaluated for 10 years.
Of the 101 patients receiving daily injections of Copaxone throughout the past six years, 77 have had three or fewer relapses, and 26 have not had any relapses. Study participants also experienced a steady decline in the relapse rate, so that on average, they were experiencing one relapse every four to five years, compared to two medically documented relapses in the two years prior to taking the medication and being part of the study. That represents a 72 percent reduction in the annual relapse rate.
"The findings suggest that not only is Copaxone well-tolerated, but that the longer a patient takes the drug, the better it works," said Kenneth Johnson, M.D., professor and chairman of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and principal investigator of the multi-center trial.
MS affects approximately 350,000 people in the U.S. About 60 percent of all MS patients have the relapsing-remitting form of the disease, which is characterized by relapses, also known as attacks. During those attacks, a person has symptoms that include numbness, blurred vision, difficulty walking, fatigue, and pain. Those symptoms are usually temporary and are followed by periods of remission, in which the person feels no symptoms.
"Over time, people with relapsing-remitting MS experience fewer relapses, even if they are not taking medication. But they go on to have increasing permanent disability," said Dr. Johnson. "This study showed that there was a beneficial effect of treatment with Copaxone on neurological disability, which continued over six years when patients were regularly evaluated by their examining neurologist," added Dr. Johnson.
Results of the study are important to people like 44-year-old Sue Rebstock of Baltimore, who has been living with MS since 1990 and is a study participant.
"In 1993, when I came home from work, I was too exhausted to cook or take my daughters to outside activities, such as cheerleading practice," said Rebstock. She also remembers experiencing another common effect of MS -- blurred vision.
During her first month of taking Copaxone, however, Rebstock had more energy. Over the course of treatment, her overall condition has improved. She is not bothered by blurred vision and she even has the energy to take aerobic classes again.
Rebstock was diagnosed with MS after her optometrist referred her to a neurologist for complaints of blurred vision. She was discouraged to learn the expected course of the disease, which is that on average, she could expect to have some sort of permanent disability within 10 years of diagnosis. Within 15 years, half of the people living with MS require some sort of walking aid. "My biggest fear was that MS would make me incapacitated and a burden to my family," she says.
An important finding in the study was that Copaxone could be taken daily for years and be well tolerated, according to Dr. Johnson. "This is good news because managing relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis requires long-term drug therapy. Patients' willingness to make injections of Copaxone a part of their daily routines is an important measure of the tolerability, safety, and personal benefit of this treatment."
Dr. Johnson also directs the Maryland Center for Multiple Sclerosis at the University of Maryland Medical Center, which is taking part in an international, multi-center study to evaluate the oral use of Copaxone. The trial has just gotten underway and will last for 13 months. The goal is to assess the effectiveness of an oral form of the drug
compared to a placebo.
Multiple Sclerosis is a peer-reviewed, bi-monthly scientific journal for clinicians who treat MS patients, and researchers in all aspects of the biology and pathology of the disease.
The Maryland Center for Multiple Sclerosis is committed to providing the highest level of diagnosis and long-term care for individuals with MS. The Center works closely with patients, families, and primary care physicians to develop treatment plans that help patients manage their conditions effectively and lead active, productive lives. The Center is recognized as a world leader in innovative research programs with the goal of finding effective therapies and eventually curing or preventing MS.
SOURCE: University of Maryland