Interferon Beta Does Not Prevent Disability: My Experience

  • I scoffed when I poured through last week’s New York Times article, “Multiple Sclerosis Drug Doesn’t Prevent Onset of Disability, Study Finds.”

     

    What I took from this article is a study found that the drug I'm taking to slow the progression of my MS – interferon beta – has little or no effect on a patient’s progression to disability.

     

    According to the Times, “Researchers at the University of British Columbia prospectively collected data on 868 M.S. patients treated with interferon beta, comparing them with 1,788 patients who never took the drug. Using a well-validated scale, they found that those who took interferon beta were no less likely to suffer long-term disability than those who took none.”

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    Initially, in a form of silent protest to the research findings, I planned to go home after work, give Jennifer a big hug and kiss, and run my regular four-mile route. Then, I was going to take my interferon beta injection before I went to bed the same as I had done every other night for the past nearly 12 years.

     

    Little or no effect on a patient’s progression to disability? Apparently they didn’t include people like me in their study. Or so I thought.

     

    Obviously the article and research got to me. So much so that I bookmarked it on my web browser and went back several times to reread what they were saying. For me, this is the information in the story that I regularly review because it confirms my understanding of why I continue taking this medicine:

     

    “The senior author, Helen Tremlett, an associate professor of neurology at the University of British Columbia, cautioned that the study, published online on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, does not show that interferon beta is useless.

     

    ‘These drugs were licensed because they reduce relapse and have a better outcome with lesions,’ she said. ‘That has not changed.’”

     

    I always have felt that all of us with MS are rolling the dice when we choose whether or not to take any of the FDA-approved disease-modifying drugs. Even people who take these medicines run the risk of MS exacerbations and a worsening of the disease’s affect on our bodies.

     

    When such flare-ups do occur, proponents of the medicine follow up with something like, “Just think how much worse it could have been if you weren’t taking one of the medicines.” But from this recently released study, it does call into question whether it does make a difference either way.

     

    It truly is hard to say what will work the best because MS impacts each person so differently. Just look at Jennifer and me. After all, she tried the interferon beta at one time but it didn’t work for her. She now is taking another one of the disease-modifying medicines, and we often joke around with each other whose MS medicine is better.

     

    It is a gamble whether any of these drugs will or won’t work, but I believe the odds are in my favor if I continue taking the interferon beta.

     

    But I’m not putting my money down on any kind of medicine to help me positively move forward with whatever this disease brings to the table. I’m going with the sure thing that I know I can control and will keep me in the game.

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    I’m betting it all on me.

Published On: July 23, 2012