More MS news articles for March 1999

MS patient eager to test new treatment

Monday, March 15, 1999
By Jackie Jadrnak
Journal Staff Writer

Eleven years after being diagnosed N.M. with multiple sclerosis, Bob Ricker said he medical doesn't worry too much about his disease
getting worse.

"It really doesn't do any good," said the 64-year-old man, who volunteers about 35 hours a week at the Albuquerque office of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. "If it and happens, it happens. I see a lot of people worse off than I am."

But Ricker is eager to sign up for a Health Care nationwide trial of a drug that might be
useful in treating his form of multiple sclerosis.

"If it does help me, it's OK," he said. "I hope to get in the study to help other people."

Copaxone, a drug already approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, will be tried on people like Ricker with primary National progressive multiple sclerosis.

People with the primary progressive Institute form of the disease really have no reliable treatment right now, said Dr. Corey Ford, associate professor of neurology at the University of New Mexico. He is heading the local trial of the drug and directs UNM's
multiple sclerosis clinic.

People with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis have intermittent attacks of the disease, but they get better in between, Ford said. People with primary progressive multiple sclerosis just slowly to keep getting worse, he said.

"They develop disability, but it's Internet more insidious and continuously downhill," Breast said Ford, who estimated that 10 percent to 15 percent of the people with multiple sclerosis have the primary progressive form.

Copaxone already has been shown to help people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, with a study showing the frequency Children's of their attacks falling after treatment from one every 11/2 years to one every five or six Parenting years, Ford said.

At the end of a five-year study, the overall disability level of the group remained stable, although individuals might have gotten better or worse, he said. The drug appears to work by selectively suppressing the immune response that attacks the myelin, the material that insulates people's nerves, he said. In multiple sclerosis, the myelin becomes inflamed and damaged, short-circuiting the messages that travel down our nerves.

"It's not a cure," Ford said of Copaxone. But slowing the deterioration caused by the disease is important, he said.

Ricker suspects his multiple sclerosis might have been triggered when robbers attacked him outside an Albuquerque grocery to store in 1982. They beat him badly enough to the break his arm and knock out all but 10 of his page teeth, he said. Despite his attempts to
rehabilitate himself afterward, he didn't seem to get any stronger, he said.

Five years after his beating, his weakness made him consider suicide, he said. Instead, he ended up in a psychiatric hospital and eventually was referred for a ph ysical evaluation that produced his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, he said.

Ricker said he can walk with a cane, but uses a scooter for any significant distance. He tires easily, he said, and can only read for about 10 minutes before his eyes start to cross. He stopped driving six years ago because his peripheral vision and depth perception are not good. Because the muscles in his throat are affected, he often briefly chokes on his own saliva when he tries to swallow, he said.

"It's not so it will kill me, but it's uncomfortable," he said.

He keeps busy with volunteer activities. "I've been able to accept it (multiple sclerosis) and help other people as a peer counselor," he said. "It isn't the end of the world that I thought it was."

Every Sunday, he goes to the Santa Fe Ski Basin and shoots down the mountain in adaptive gear that allows him to sit while he skis. Ricker said he also goes camping and whitewater canoeing.

He said he's not sure he'll qualify for the drug trial since he's near the age cut-off. But Ricker said he'd like to give it a try.

The nationwide, three-year trial is based at the University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center. Nine hundred patients are being recruited at 54 sites in the United States and Canada. Participants must be between 30 and 65 with a confirmed diagnosis of primary progressive multiple sclerosis. About 50,000 people in this country are believed to have this form of multiple sclerosis.

Participants must be able to walk, at least with a walker, Ford said. They will learn how to inject the drug themselves and will be checked every three months, with an MRI scan every year, he said. They must not have used Copaxone in the past and must be willing to discontinue interferon or other immunosuppressant drugs they might be taking, Ford said.

One-third of the participants will get a placebo; the rest will get Copaxone. If people have found a drug regimen that has stopped the progression of their disease, they probably won't want to sign up for the trial, Ford said.

To get more information or to enroll in the study, call 505-272-8132.

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