February 14, 2003
By Nicholas Regush
MS is back in the news, but even if you do not have the neurological disease or know someone who does, the drama unfolding has implications for anyone with a chronic illness, and it also sheds light on the backwardness of clinical research and practice.
For example, a report in The Lancet, basically reveals that recombinant interferons used widely in the treatment of MS lack solid evidence for long-term benefit. In fact, a thorough review of the medical literature shows that even during the first year of treatment, the overall reduction of symptoms is modest. Also, the report indicates that side-effects are common and that acute toxic effects have great impact on the quality of life.
The problem is that there is very little follow-up of patients to actually determine how these treatments work over the longer term. This is a problem in the treatment of most chronic illnesses. No one is watching, although doctors claim they are "following" their patients. What on earth can this possibly mean? In this case "following" usually does not mean gathering good data on whether a treatment really works or not. If proper studies are not done, as is the case, then how can anyone continue with good conscience to blindly offer poorly-tested treatments? Oh sure, I know, doctors are always assessing their patients. Please, give me a break. I’d love to see their charts on these "followed" or "assessed" patients.
The voluntary societies, which control some of the research funding, (and that includes some of the MS societies) should be investigated by the media. Such an effort is long overdue. These societies often PREVENT alternative treatment approaches by helping to close down the door on the funding of innovative projects. One focus of investigation should be the ties these societies have to the drug industry. Of course, you won’t find any mention of this in typical news reports on MS. You usually get some blather from some MS official on how well the treatments are working. Sorry, the science does not support such enthusiasm.
Here’s a BBC report that focuses on the latest data re: MS:
Have a good weekend,
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