Medicine & Research

Doctor's Notes

By: MS Focus Senior Medical Advisor, Ben Thrower M.D. In a new study, researchers detected clear evidence of changes that tie together bacteria living in the gut and immunological disorders such as multiple sclerosis. Investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital found that people with MS have different patterns of gut microorganisms than those of their healthy counterparts. I
Medicine & Research

Rx Update: Cladribine

By: Ellen Whipple, Pharm. D Six years ago, no oral agents had been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the European Medicines Agency for the treatment of patients with multiple sclerosis. There appeared to be a race between several products (i.e., cladribine, fingolimod, and laquinimod) to be the first oral agent approved in either the U.S. or Europe for the treatment of patients with MS.
Medicine & Research

Doctor's Notes

By: MS Focus Senior Medical Advisor, Ben Thrower M.D.In a new study involving multiple sclerosis patients with chronic optic neuropathy, researchers found that clemastine fumarate, a common antihistamine used to treat symptoms of allergies and the common cold, partially reversed damage to the visual system. The findings were presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 68th annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada.
Medicine & Research

MS News and What It Means to You

By: MSF Senior Medical Advisor, Ben Thrower M.D.MSFocus Senior Medical Advisor, Ben Thrower M.D., draws from the top news stories of the quarter and explains what the news means for you and your MS.
Medicine & Research

Understanding the 2016 CDC Guidelines Regarding the Use of Opioid Medications for the Treatment of Chronic Pain

By: Ellen Whipple, BS, Pharm.D. MSF Medical AdvisorIn April 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published updated guidelines in the Journal of the American Medical Association regarding the use of opioid medications. These guidelines provide recommendations based on best available evidence, interpreted and informed by opinion. The goal of these guidelines is to provide recommendations to primary care clinicians regarding how to prescribe opioid medications to patients suffering from chronic pain.
Medicine & Research

MS NEWS and What It Means to You

By: Dr. Ben ThrowerA new study points a finger at a subset of B cells – the GM-CSF-producing B cells – as a key contributor in the inflammatory immune cell responses in multiple sclerosis. The results offer new insights into the role of B cells and their interaction with other immune cells in MS.
Medicine & Research, Advanced-MS

Cognitive Impairment – When Medications Are the Problem

By: Ellen Whipple, BS, Pharm.D. MSF Medical AdvisorEstimates of the number of people with MS who suffer from some degree of cognitive impairment vary. However, cognitive impairment is more common in people with progressive disease compared to patients with relapsing-remitting disease. Cognitive impairment is not absent, however, from patients with early disease.
Medicine & Research

The State of MS Research

By: David E. Jones, M.D.Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory condition of the central nervous system that likely occurs when a genetically susceptible individual is exposed to an environmental trigger. Although it is not a very common disease (old estimates suggest 400,000 affected individuals in the United States), it is the most common cause of nontraumatic disability in young adults in the U.S. today. Given this, there are numerous groups that advocate for patients with MS, including the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation
Medicine & Research

Updates by the Pharmacist HALT-MS Trial: Hope or Hype?

By: Ellen Whipple, BS, Pharm.D.“Updates by the Pharmacist” spotlights the latest significant research on MS medications as well as pharmaceutical issues significant to MS care. No endorsement is implied. Data show the currently approved disease-modifying drugs decrease the number and severity of relapses in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, but do not entirely eliminate them.
Medicine & Research

MS News

By: Ben Thrower, M.D. The MS News column includes analysis from MSF Senior Medical Advisor Ben Thrower, M.D. Drawing from the top MS news stories of the quarter, Dr. Thrower will assess what the news means to you, the person with MS.
Medicine & Research

MS NEWS and What It Means to You

By: MSF Senior Medical Advisor Ben Thrower, M.D.Researchers found that stem cell transplantation may be safe and feasible for MS patients. Using stem cells harvested from the bone marrow of the test subjects, the Phase I study suggests that the procedure deserves further study.
Medicine & Research

The Sunshine Vitamin: Vitamin D and MS

By: Elizabeth Yarnell, CNC, CNHPYou might already know that vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and teeth, but did you realize that it plays a role in maintaining a healthy immune system, too?
Medicine & Research

The Bare Facts About Coral Calcium

By: MSF Staff and reviewed by the MSF Medical Advisory BoardAdvertisers and infomercials claim that coral calcium can strengthen bones, promote weight-loss, and potentially cure over 200 diseases. And guess what? Consumers are buying it. According to SPINS, a San Francisco-based market research firm, within the past year, coral calcium has evolved into a $6.5 million dollar business.
Medicine & Research

Examining the Safety of Aspartame

By: Ellen Whipple Guthrie, Pharm.D.For several years, an alarming and controversial report has been circulating on the Internet, claiming that the artificial sweetener aspartame can cause multiple sclerosis and a host of other ailments. Certain versions of the report even claim that MS symptoms will disappear if intake of aspartame is halted. MSFocus frequently receives letters questioning the truth of these allegations. Ellen Guthrie, Pharm.D. now explores the question, is aspartame safe?
Medicine & Research

MS Drugs in the Pipeline: Focus on Progressive Forms of MS

By: Ellen Whipple Guthrie, Pharm.D.Eighty-five percent of people with multiple sclerosis are originally diagnosed with a relapsing-remitting course of the disease (RRMS).
Medicine & Research

NMO: The Deceiver - A Simple Diagnostic Test Unmasks the MS Imposter

By: Derek BlackwayNeuromyelitis optica (NMO) is an uncommon disease of the central nervous system (CNS) that affects the optic nerves and spinal cord. Originally known as Devic’s Disease, NMO is often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis and until recently, NMO was thought to be a severe variant of MS. Recent discoveries indicate that NMO and MS are distinct diseases.
Medicine & Research

Lumbar Puncture: What You Need to Know

By: Greg Robert Zarelli, M.D.A lumbar puncture (LP) is a major diagnostic tool sometimes used to confirm a diagnosis of MS. Also called a spinal tap, this is a test to analyze the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. This fluid, which acts like a cushion protecting the brain and spine from injury, is known as cerebral spinal fluid (CSF).
Medicine & Research

Keep Lumbar Puncture on Tap When You Suspect MS

By: David Squillacote, M.D.Under what circumstances is lumbar puncture indicated in a patient with multiple sclerosis?
Medicine & Research

Examining the Ampyra™ Experience

By: Daniel Kantor, M.D.On Jan. 22, 2010 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Ampyra (dalfampridine) as a treatment for walking impairment in multiple sclerosis. Since that time, many people who have tried Ampyra have had follow-up questions about the medication, its efficacy, dosage, and whether or not certain health changes are related to usage.
Medicine & Research

LDN: Miracle or Myth?

By: Daniel Kantor, M.D.LDN – yet another set of initials in the MS alphabet jumble. You may have heard people raving about it, and you may have heard doctors shying away from it. So who is right?
Medicine & Research

The Next Chapter in MS Care

By: David E. Jones, M.D. Multiple sclerosis is the most common cause of nontraumatic disability in young adults in the United States today. It can lead to significant physical, cognitive, and emotional impairment. MS is known to affect both the covering of nerves (myelin) as well as the nerves (axons) themselves in the brain and the spinal cord, and it is now known that this damage is mediated by both inflammatory and degenerative processes. It is suspected that MS occurs when a genetically susceptible person is exposed to an environmental trigger.
Medicine & Research

Prescription Pain Relief

By: Ellen Whipple Guthrie, Pharm.D.Pain is defined as an unpleasant sensory and emotional response to a stimulus associated with actual or potential tissue damage. While all pain is uncomfortable, it is important to realize that when it comes to MS-related pain, not all pain is alike.
Medicine & Research

What to Expect from Your MS Disease-Modifying Drug

By: Dr. Daniel Kantor, M.D.It’s time to set the record straight about MS disease-modifying drugs (DMDs), sometimes called disease-modifying treatments or agents (DMTs or DMAs).
Medicine & Research

When Medication Stops Working or Causes Complications: It's Time to Switch

By: Maria Adelita Reyes-Velarde, MD, MPHIn general there are two basic reasons to consider switching MS treatments (or for that matter, any other medication): You cannot tolerate the side effects, or the medications aren’t working for you. Let’s start by talking about side effects.
Medicine & Research

Fampridine SR - One Step Closer to Becoming a Reality

By: Ellen Guthrie Whipple, Pharm.D.Muscle weakness and gait (walking) disturbances plague many patients with multiple sclerosis. Very soon, a new drug – with the generic name of Fampridine SR – will become commercially available to help people with MS who suffer from these two common and challenging symptoms. Various studies that examined the effectiveness of Fampridine SR in patients with MS showed, when compared to placebo, treatment with Fampridine SR led to improvements in both walking speed and in the strength of leg muscles.
Medicine & Research

The Medication Solution Assists in Restoring Emotional Health

By: Ellen Whipple Guthrie, Pharm.D.Emotional problems, such as depression and anxiety, are very common in people with MS and can negatively impact their health and well-being. More than 50 percent of people with MS experience one of these mood changes at some point during their illness, according to MSF Medical Advisor Ben W. Thrower, M.D. Yet many people with MS who suffer from emotional problems do not disclose these struggles to their physicians.
Medicine & Research

The Potential Role of Chemokines in Remyelination

By: Kakuri M.Omari, Ph.D.In the MS lesion, the oligodendrocyte (the myelin-producing cell) is selectively destroyed due to an abnormal immune response occurring within the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is normally sequestered from the immune system. If immune cells do enter, they may detect proteins normally found in the CNS, but which are foreign to them and may mount an attack. Strategies to help oligodendrocytes survive, increase in number, or repopulate lesion areas hold much promise.
Medicine & Research

Oral Medications for MS Treatment

By: Ellen Whipple Guthrie, Pharm.D.The treatment options for multiple sclerosis have changed dramatically over the last 16 years. The first disease-modifying drug, Betaseron®, became commercially available in 1993. With the release of this product, the transformation in the treatment of MS began.
Medicine & Research

What About the Side Effects?

By: Helen Tremlett, Ph.D. and Joel Oger, M.D., FRCPCNo drug is absolutely safe. Moreover, there is no known way of completely establishing the safety of a drug before it is prescribed to the general population. Any drug for multiple sclerosis - or any disease for that matter - has to go through fairly rigorous testing, the final stage of which is a large clinical trial. However, those clinical trials are really only able to detect common adverse reactions, also known as side effects. They usually cannot detect the rarer, but sometimes more serious, adverse events.
Medicine & Research

15 Years of MS Therapy

By: T. Jock Murray, M.D.For a century, the only therapies to help MS were those that addressed its symptoms. It would be fair to describe that time as the “Descriptive Era,” when scientists learned to separate the disease from other neurological conditions. During this time, much was learned about the clinical, pathological, immunological and epidemiological aspects of MS, as well as the condition’s genetics, course and prognosis. But no matter which treatment was used, the outcome of the disease remained unaffected.
Medicine & Research

Shades of Gray: MS Misconceptions, Misunderstandings, and Misinterpretations

By: Julie Stachowiak, Ph.D.MS is a strange disease. Most people get diagnosed fairly young, go through periods of intense emotion and information gathering, and then kind of “settle in” to living with MS. Besides occasional scary moments during relapses, or some crossroads that we may come to in terms of disability or symptom progression, there aren’t really many panicky times of medical intervention or the types of life-or-death decisions faced by people with other health problems. We don’t get cured, but we don’t die, either. We go on living with our MS, sometimes feeling better and sometimes feeling worse.
Medicine & Research

The Genetic Connection

By: Daniel Kantor, M.D. Genes are more than what you wear, they make us what we are. We are all created from two sets of genetic blueprints, strings of amino acids (the basic building blocks that make up DNA) that tell our cells what proteins to produce in order to make our bodies work. One set of chromosomes comes from your mother and one set comes from your father.
Medicine & Research

MS and Autoimmune Thyroiditis

By: Roger S. Williams, M.D.Current evidence suggests that MS is an autoimmune disease. This means that tissue damage is not caused primarily by an external agent, such as a virus or toxin, but by the person’s own immune system. The immune system is our defense mechanism against the potentially harmful effects of other agents, either external or generated from within.
Medicine & Research

The Search For A Cause of MS

By: Dr. T. Jock MurrayAnyone who has been diagnosed with MS must have wondered about what causes the disease. In medicine, the search for the cause of a disease has been central to the process of understanding the nature of the disorder, and an important step towards discovering effective therapies and prevention. Occasionally, medicine has found a treatment or cure for a disease before really understanding the cause of the disease, but that usually depends on luck and serendipity.
Medicine & Research

The Importance of Clinical Trials

By: MSF Staff and reviewed by the MSF Medical Advisory BoardIt is often said that good things take time. Clinical trials may be a prime example. In the U.S., for example, it usually takes just over fourteen years and $500 million dollars for an experimental drug to make the arduous journey from laboratory to patient.
Medicine & Research

MS Medications and Oral Contraceptives: What You Need to Know

By: Ellen Whipple Guthrie, Pharm.D.Oral contraceptives – birth control pills – are considered one of the safest and most effective means of preventing pregnancy. However, oral contraceptives are not for all women. If you are over the age of 35 and smoke cigarettes, the pill increases your risk for medical problems, including heart attacks, blood clots, and stroke. In fact, a study recently published in the Lancet found that women who smoke are 25% more likely to die from any cause if they also take oral contraceptives.
Medicine & Research, Women

When the Choice is Yours: How to Select the Disease-Modifying Treatment That is Right for You

By: Julie Stachiowack, Ph.D.Choosing a disease-modifying therapy for multiple sclerosis can be a daunting task – to some people figuring out the plusses and minuses of the medicines for their situation is so complicated that they think this decision is best left to their doctor. I strongly believe that it should be a joint decision – this is a crucial part of sticking with your treatment and evaluating it objectively. Otherwise, you may end up feeling like a certain treatment option is something that “happened to you,” and become resentful about the particular drug, instead of hopeful.
Medicine & Research