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Friday, January 18, 2013 - People With MS Benefitting From Improved Treatment and Expanded Services

People with MS benefitting from improved treatment and expanded services
By Amos Katz, M.D.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is the most common disabling neurological disease among young adults affecting about 400,000 people in the United States. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40 and two out of three are women. It is an unpredictable autoimmune disease that damages nerves and can impair vision, mobility, thinking and memory. Too often, it can lead to permanent disability. For many patients, episodes of worsening function (relapses) are initially followed by recovery periods (remissions). But as the disease progresses, recovery periods may not return the patient to full capacity. Eventually, this can lead to a decline in physical and mental capacities. Life expectancy can be normal and many people continue to walk and function with minimal disability for 20 or more years. Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, talk show host Montel Williams, and country music singer Clay Walker are examples of well-known people living with MS but exhibiting few, if any, outward symptoms.

Promising new medications help lessen symptoms and relapses

While there is no cure yet, tremendous progress has been made in slowing the progression of the disease. Just 20 years ago, MS was virtually untreatable and treatment services were limited. Medications have only been available since 1994. But today, there are nine FDA-approved medications to treat early-stage patients and one to help later-stage patients. In recent clinical trials, two of the most promising new drugs to date have been shown to slow disease progression and improve symptoms in some patients with fewer side effects than ever before.

In September 2012, Aubagio, a daily oral tablet for adults with relapsing forms of MS, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In a clinical trial, the relapse rate for patients using this medication was 30 percent lower than the rate for those taking a placebo. The drug also slowed the progression of physical disability and reduced the number of brain lesions detected by MRI. Unlike most MS medications which are administered by injection, Aubagio is offered in tablet form, lessening patient discomfort. A newer medication which is not yet approved by the FDA, BG-12, could become a third oral medication which has been shown to reduce relapse rates by as much as 50 percent in addition to reducing the frequency of new brain lesions and slowing disease progression.

The importance of patient wellness and treatment care

Today, people living with MS can lead rich and full lives, regardless of the stage of the disease. Whether you have just received a diagnosis or have been living with MS for years, it is critical to establish an ongoing relationship with a healthcare facility that specializes in MS-specific wellness and treatment services. This team approach can help patients successfully manage their day-to-day physical, cognitive and emotional needs.

CentraState Medical Center’s Linda E. Cardinale MS Center offers patients and families a full range of diagnostic, treatment, rehabilitation, wellness and support services all under one roof. The Center treats more than 700 patients per year and recently received a “Partner in MS Care” acknowledgement from the National MS Society after demonstrating advanced expertise and high-quality patient care. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 866-CENTRA7 or visit centrastate.com.  

Dr. Amos Katz is a board-certified neurologist and medical director of the Linda E. Cardinale MS Center at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold. He can be reached at The MS Center by calling (732) 294-2505.