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Health Team

New research on MS suggests early drug start may be beneficial

Posted April 27, 2018 6:48 p.m. EDT
Updated April 27, 2018 6:51 p.m. EDT

— New guidelines for treating multiple sclerosis are out, and the guidance suggests that starting medications sooner may be beneficial.

MS is a leading cause of disability in this country, impacting about 400,000 patients in the U.S.

.The latest advances in medications, authored by Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Alexander Rae-Grant, have made it possible to treat people when they exhibit the first signs of the ailment.

"The previous guideline we had was in 2002, and at that time, we only had a small array of medications for people with MS," Rae-Grant said. "We now have 17 FDA-approved medicines, and so it's a much more complicated and exciting landscape."

MS is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the central nervous system.

Its symptoms include muscle weakness, vision problems, emotional issues and difficulty with coordination and thinking, experts say.

Research that led to the new guidelines shows that starting an MS drug as early as possible can lead to better results.

The new guidelines call for more careful monitoring so that medication changes can be made, if needed. Damage to the central nervous system due to MS can't be undone.

But Rae-Grant said taking medications sooner, rather than later, can help slow the progression of the disease.

"We know that we can't take away any injury that's occurred in the time during the disease, so the more we can be preventing things up front, the better we can do," he said.