Television News Service/Medical Breakthroughs
©Ivanhoe Broadcast News, Inc. September 1999
Over 300,000 Americans have multiple sclerosis or MS. There are several drugs used to treat the neurological disease. One is Avonex. Another is Copaxone. Both are effective on their own, but researchers believe they may be more effective when taken together.
Sue and Tony Doll have been together for 20 years. Despite the multiple sclerosis Sue has had for three years, they just celebrated their anniversary in Jamaica.
"You can still have a great life. I just went parasailing, snorkeling. You can do everything you did before, just in moderation," says Sue.
The drug Avonex helps keep MS from controlling Sue's life. The weekly muscular injections slow the disease's progression and reduce attacks. Sue will soon be taking a second drug, Copaxone. It does the same thing and is injected under the skin daily.
Fred Lublin, M.D., a neuroimmunologist at MCP Hahnemann University in Philadelphia, says, "We would hope that by combining the two we could get additive effects that would be better than either one alone."
Alone, each lowers MS attacks by about 30 percent. If successful, the two combined could reduce episodes even more.
Dr. Lublin gives test patients Avonex, also called interferon, for the first three months. Then he adds Copaxone.
"This particular scan is done with gadolinium dye, which is the dye that lights up active areas of MS. Interferon lowers that level of gadolinium enhancement quite effectively," he says.
If there's an increase in activity, it means the drugs are interfering with one another. Sue believes the two drugs will prove to be better than one. If she's right, her wish may come true.
Sue says, "My hope is that in the future it will keep me mobile without the use of a wheelchair."
For someone who loves an active life, that would be good news.
Thirty-two patients will be studied at five centers nationwide including:
MCP Hahnemann University in Philadelphia, Penn.,
Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.,
Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich.,
University of Alabama in Birmingham, and
University of Maryland in Baltimore.
Patients must be in the early to middle stages of multiple sclerosis, often called relapsing remitting MS.
If you would like more information, please contact:
Fred Lublin, M.D.
Medical College of Pennsylvania Hospital
3300 Henry Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19129