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Common treatment for MS revealed to have potential adverse reactions

Published on 16/05/17 at 11:07am

Beta interferons are a common treatment used to manage multiple sclerosis. The treatment works by reducing and preventing the inflammation that damages nerves in sufferers of MS, thus reducing the number of relapses in those with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.

This particular group was the patient group identified for a study by the University of British Columbia to ascertain whether the widely used treatments had any potentially adverse side-effects. Researchers analysed the health records of over 2,000 individuals between the years 1995 to 2008.

“Once a drug is released on the market, there are very few ways to systematically monitor adverse events,” said Helen Tremlett, senior author of the study and a professor in the Department of Medicine at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health. “Clinical trials cannot identify all adverse effects of a drug treatment partly due to small sample sizes and relatively short follow-up periods.”

The results of the study found that there was an increased risk of events, such as strokes, migraines and depression. As well as this, there were also abnormalities in the blood of taking the treatment for extended periods of time.

The aim of the research was not to prevent the use of beta interferons but to identify potential biomarkers for patients that may be particularly susceptible to side-effects and to better inform the science of the treatment’s use.

Against the more negative news of the negative effects of the drugs, there was also the positive news that there was a reduced risk of bronchitis and upper respiratory infections in those taking the medicine for more than two years. Both issues are a common problem for those with MS, meaning that doctors are unlikely to stop prescribing the medication any time soon – particularly as the numbers of treatments for MS are currently so limited. However, it may help better inform medical decisions in the future.

Ben Hargreaves

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