Scientists are questioning the effectiveness of multiple sclerosis (MS) drug beta interferon and glatiramer acetateon.
Interferons have been used widely for the treatment of MS, a neurological disease, for almost a decade, and are available, along with glatiramer acetateon, for this use free of charge from many national health services. However, the long-term effectiveness of both drugs has not been confirmed and any beneficial effects might be outweighed by their side effects and high costs.
In an analysis of trials conducted so far on the use of interferon in patients with the relapsing-remitting form of MS, interferon had a "modest" protective effect during the first year of treatment. However, results could not be determined for the second year due to trial weaknesses, including high dropout rates and little to no follow-up of patients, and differences in reporting of methods.
Side effects were greater among patients taking interferon than those taking a placebo. Flu-like symptoms were common and the occurrence of leucopenia, lymphocytopenia, thrombocytopenia, and raised liver enzymes in blood was higher than controls.
Scientists conclude that while interferon may have a modest effect during the first year of treatment, its effectiveness beyond one year is not known. Despite this, patients are commonly treated with interferon for long time periods. Scientists say that the drugs effectiveness should be assessed.
The Lancet February 15, 2003;361(9357) 545-552
Dr. Mercola's Comment
I have rarely found interferon to be effective in treating MS and have never prescribed it. Even though it has the appeal of a "natural" therapy, it really isnt because it is forcing the body to some predefined level of interferon, which is unlikely to be anything but randomly associated with the correct level.
The body is quite dynamic with very intricate feedback loops that constantly modulate and adjust important biochemical adjusters like interferon. Once you take the feedback loop out of the circuit you are asking for trouble. Generally a prescription for interferon is a prescription for a potential disaster. Depression is a common side effect of interferon and is the last thing someone with MS needs.
MS patients stuck in the traditional paradigm struggle for any answer or solution, and it is easy to rely on interferon for hope. However, this drug is quite expensive, which is one of the major reasons why it is being widely promoted. It can easily cost well over $10,000 a year for interferon therapy, though patients are generally shielded from these costs by their "insurance companies." If they werent, there would be far fewer people using these drugs.
As I said last month when I discussed MS:
MS is a very challenging problem to treat. There are no simple solutions. However this study suggests that lowering your food intake may help.
I suspect this may be largely related to normalization of insulin levels, and it is likely that the elimination of grains and sugars from the diet was the reason why investigators noted improvements in the above study.
Following a healthy diet is, of course, also key, along with eating right for your Metabolic Type.
Optimization of your vitamin D levels is also of primary importance as many studies suggest. You should NOT guess at your vitamin D levels; I highly recommend serial blood tests to help you maintain your vitamin D level around 50.
In my experience with MS patients there is nearly always a precipitating traumatic emotional event that causes the immune system to crash. Clearly, issues related to this event need to be addressed.
Fortunately, there are many tools to help you do that. Many of you know that I use EFT, personally and in my practice, for this purpose. Because MS is such a serious challenge I would not advise using EFT for MS by yourself, but rather only as a supplement to a trained EFT practitioner. Dr. Carrington has compiled some guidelines on selecting an EFT therapist, followed by a list of EFT practitioners throughout the U.S. and world. Many of these therapists even offer a free 15-minute phone session in which you can ask them questions to see if you connect.