As noted previously here, several treatments have now been proven in a series of trials to reduce the risk of relapses in MS. The newest drug, Tysabri, has the greatest benefit in this regard, with a 66% reduction in relapses. Although in their respective trials most of the drugs have been shown to decrease the risk of progression, it is not correct to say that they are capable of stopping MS. The benefits of Betaseron, Avonex, Rebif, and Tysabri appear somewhat similar in this regard. Some MS patients have milder illness than others, and aggressive management, with consequent more prominent side effects, may not be indicated. However, as outlined previously here, Tysabri has just recently been withdrawn from the market by Biogen-Idec and Elan pending review of unexpected complications.
There is evidence that Novantrone, the most aggressive treatment approved, stabilizes the majority of progressive, or worsening, MS patients. Although it may be tempting to use this more aggressive treatment in patients with relapsing-remitting MS, as is being done in Europe, important side effects from this drug must be considered. Although all forms of treatment for MS (and virtually all medical conditions) have side effects, the specific issues associated with Novantrone, such as the risk of leukemia (rare) and cardiac complications, cannot be ignored.
Tysabri comes close to stopping my MS. As with any experimental drug, there are many obstacles and checkpoints before it gets to market, if at all. Tysabri seems to have had one of the longer and more roller coaster-like routes to market and beyond. On November 23, 2004, 7 years after my drug trial infusion, the FDA approved Tysabri.
During the 7 years I went through as many changes as the corporations that owned the drug and then some. I had over 15 flare-ups, tried (without benefit) an interferon, volunteered for several drug trials that did not materialize, spent over a year at a 5.5 disability level, lost function in several areas, and considered chemotherapy. The day after FDA approval, our local pharmacist ordered a vial of Tysabri for me. On December 21, 2004, I took it to the doctor in our '"playmate cooler" and had an infusion, one of the first in the world.
After the first infusion, I slept for 3 days and woke up stronger and stayed stronger than I had been for many years. There were no negative side effects. I felt like I was going to get a chance to get better. I had been having flare-ups every few months and felt like Sisyphus—each time I would get even a foothold, I would get rolled back down the mountain of MS. Two infusions later, the drug was withdrawn from the market and now, again, we wait.
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