Local News

New MS Drug Helps Patients Regain Some Control Of Their Lives

Posted March 19, 2002 9:47 a.m. EST

— A new drug is helping some patients afflicted with multiple sclerosis regain control of their lives.

Theresia Sanchez was only in her 20s when multiple sclerosis robbed her of her active lifestyle. Sanchez has relapsing MS.

"I started having symptoms of double vision, weakness on the left side. I'd go to pick up a cup of coffee and I'd drop it," she said.

People with this form of the disease go through debilitating attacks which are followed by periods of remission.

"MS is a disease that attacks young people. It's basically an attack on their brain and their spinal cord," neurologist Dr. Patricia Coyle said.

Relapsing MS gets worse over time as it damages the brain.

"Somebody may be doing well, and yet these lesions continue to form, damaging their brain tissue," Coyle said.

Most of the drugs used to treat relapsing MS are injected into the skin. The newest drug, Rebif, is a bio-engineered form of a natural protein found in the body. Rebif is not a cure, but it does help slow the damage caused by MS.

"If you give the drug at a high dose, and you give it frequently during the week as opposed to low dose and give it once a week -- the more sustained level works better," Coyle said.

Sanchez has been on Rebif for more than a year. So far, she has not experienced any painful relapses.

"To be able to walk the beach, to go to a lighthouse, to walk up the stairs to the tower, to be able to do all those things, it's a blessing," she said.

Most injected MS drugs come in pre-filled syringes. Studies are under way testing new medications that would be available in a much-easier pill form.

MS occurs more frequently in states that are above the 37th parallel than in states below it. From east to west, the 37th parallel extends from Newport News, Virginia to Santa Cruz, Calif., running along the northern border of North Carolina.