Multiple Sclerosis Newsletter - October Issue
Long Term Data on Avonex, Copaxone
New results from studies that looked at long-term use of Avonex (interferon beta-1a) and Copaxone (glatiramer acetate) showed that on average both stabilized or reduced disability.
Both studies followed-up on people who had been involved in the Phase III clinical trials that led to the initial FDA approval for the drugs.
The Copaxone research looked at 100 people who had received ongoing treatment with the drug for an average of 13.6 years, finding that 80 percent of them were able to walk unassisted and that most had stable or improved disability rates as measured by Expanded Disability Scale Scores (EDSS). The Copaxone patients also had a 78 percent reduction in their annual rate of relapse.
The long-term study of Avonex followed 136 people who had been taking the drug for as long as 15 years, showing that Avonex lowered disability progression as measured by EDSS. It also found that people reported greater independence, both in their ability to care for themselves and in their living situation, and improved quality of life.
The information was presented at the World Congress on Treatment and Research in MS, held Sept. 17-20 in Montreal, Canada. For more information on studies reviewed at the World Congress, look for the fall issue of MSFocus in October.
Betaseron Introduces Thinner Needle
Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, maker of Betaseron, has announced plans for a 30 gauge needle, the thinnest offered for an injectable disease-modifying drug. A recent survey found that of 220 people in the U.S. and Canada polled, 33 percent said that the length of the needle used for MS injections made them nervous, and 31 percent were concerned by the needle’s thickness.
According to Bayer, the new Betaseron needle is comparable to those used for insulin and pediatric injections. The new needle will be introduced with an optional auto injector, called BETAJECT. ® For more information, visit www.betaseron.com/thinner
Cannabis-based Drug Relieves MS Pain in UK Trial
A small study in the UK found that people taking Sativex, a cannabis-based medication, experienced less neuropathic pain related to MS than those not on the drug.
Forty-two people who had previously taken Sativex participated in the study, which was designed to see if the pain relief they experienced while taking the drug during an open label trial continued when some were given placebo and others continued with the real medication in a double-blind situation. Researchers found that those who continued taking Sativex did well, while those on placebo reported higher levels of pain.
Sativex, an oral spray, already is available in Canada and is in clinical trials in the U.S. for use as a pain reliever for cancer patients. It also is being tested in the UK to treat spasticity.
FDA Watches Tysabri Melanoma Risk
The FDA has placed Tysabri (natalizumab) on a list of medications with potential safety issues due to reports of skin melanomas in some people taking the drug.
The list is the result of a new law that requires the FDA to inform the public about new safety information or signs of possible serious risks associated with a drug.
Medications on the list are under evaluation for specific issues due to a number of adverse reaction (side effect) reports from patients, their doctors and drug manufacturers.
Nineteen other drugs are listed, including Cymbalta (duloxetine) for the risk of urinary retention, Oxycontin (oxycodone) for risk of drug abuse and misuse and Nitrostat (nitroglycerin) for risk of overdose due to labeling confusion. There have been at least three cases of melanoma reported in people taking Tysabri, but a risk of skin cancer is not mentioned in the current package insert.
According to the FDA, a drug’s presence on the list does not mean that a definite link has been established between a risk or side effect and the drug, only that the connection is possible. A full list of the drugs on the FDA’s Quarterly Report of Potential Safety Issues can be seen at www.fda.gov
Overactive Bladder Study Enrolling Now
People with MS who have overactive bladder and who use a wheelchair may qualify for the study of an experimental medication for bladder management.
The DignityToo study is enrolling now. Participants must have been diagnosed with an overactive bladder with some incontinence, weigh at least 110 pounds and be willing to record information about their bladder function into a diary.
For more information, visit www.DignityTooStudy.com
or call 1-888-61-STUDY
October is National Disability Employment Month
Each year, Congress recognizes the contributions scores of disabled Americans are able to make in the workplace, partially due to legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
This fall, remember that you have the right to reasonable accommodation in the workplace. Specific information about accommodations for MS symptoms can be found at www.disabilityinfo.gov
Web Site to Watch: Atlas of MS
The Multiple Sclerosis International Federation, together with the World Health Organization, has launched the Atlas of MS, a comprehensive study that focuses on the global prevalence of MS using research from 112 different countries.
The database is searchable not only for prevalence of MS, but also can be used to find treatment options, diagnosis process and support systems available in different countries. For more information, visit the Atlas at http://www.atlasofms.org