MS update - new drug might cause heart damage!

by Sue Widemark

A committee of experts who advise the FDA have decided that the drug, Novantrone can relieve some symptoms in progressive MS.  The trouble is, a person can only take the drug for two years without getting serious heart damage.

Novantrone is an immune suppressing drug used in treating cancer. (Chemotherapy can be so injurious to the body that modern thought in many medical circles is that it may not always be appropriate even for the treatment of cancer!)

Scientists said that MS patients on the drug often experienced a lessening of MS attacks as well as a lessening of symptoms.

Another drug was sought because the expensive drugs available today which are basically interferon based, do not work for many MS patients.

The placebo effect in MS is as high as 85-90 percent which means that it's difficult to see the effects of a drug.  Unless the drug causes an improvement in over 91 percent of the patients taking it, what the scientists may be observing is simply the placebo effect.

Since no drugs have passed that litmus test, lately researchers have decided that if MORE people taking the drug improve than those not taking the drug, the drug may have some benefit (in double blind studies).

MS patients are notorious for desperately seeking help in dealing with MS and will often spare no expense in seeking a treatment which may help them.  How could the marketers avoid such a promising market?

Those who wish to take their chances with Novantrone will have to pay $3000 every three months, if their insurance doesn't pick it up.  Someone will go to the bank but I suspect it won't be the patient.

Source: Reuters Health Service

Article by Sue Widemark  (return to MS page: )
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