April 26, 2019

Stanford researchers developing a way to predict which MS sufferers will benefit from beta-interferon treatment and which ones will not



One of the most difficult aspects of living with an autoimmune disease is figuring out what treatment option works best for a particular individual. With no cure, most people find themselves trying a variety of therapies to find one that works best. What is more is that sometimes a medication will be working well, and then it suddenly stops becoming as effective. Individuals suffering from multiple sclerosis, which is an autoimmune disease impacting millions of people around the world, also have to deal with occasional flare ups. These flare ups mean that the disorder could go into remission for a bit and then suddenly, and without warning, reappear. This makes it even more difficult to find out if a medication is actually working. In an effort to reduce these difficulties, researchers at Stanford University believe that it may be possible to predict which multiple sclerosis patients will respond favorably to a popular multiple sclerosis medication and which ones will not.

What makes this discovery even more exciting is that if a person’s blood work shows that he would not be a viable candidate for treatment with beta-interferon, then he would not have to endure the side effects of the drug, including debilitating flu-like symptoms. Living with multiple sclerosis is hard enough without having to then suffer with a medication’s complicated side effects. The Stanford research team found that a routine blood test could identify which patients would benefit from taking the beta-interferon injectible. Although this particular popular medication is helpful at reducing relapses in multiple sclerosis patients, it may produce side effects that that may dissuade a person from taking it correctly. This current study may be able to show that the drug is even more effective than previously thought if it is used with people who can actually benefit.

The researchers are currently applying for a patent for a blood test that would verify which patients would benefit from beta-interferon medication and which ones would not. It is important to note, however, that despite this exciting research, there is still no cure for multiple sclerosis. This means that even if you were identified as a responder, you could still experience a relapse of the disease and could still be considered disabled for purposes of working. The medication may improve your quality of life for awhile, but unfortunately, the disease never completely disappears. If you currently take a beta-interferon for your multiple sclerosis symptoms and it does not appear to be working, discuss other options with your doctor and also ask about this revolutionary blood testing to determine whether you are a responder or not.

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Jonathan Ginsberg represents disabled men and women in SSDI and SSI claims filed with the Social Security Administration.

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