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Alternating Treatment Days Improves MS

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April 25, 2002 -- Giving people with multiple sclerosis high-dose treatments of new interferon beta drugs every other day works better than once a week dosing, according to a new study.

It's the first head-to-head comparison involving two of the three different treatment regimens currently used with the drugs (once a week, three times a week, and once a week at varying doses). The results appear in the April 27 issue of The Lancet.

The two-year study compared 188 patients who either received interferon beta-1b every other day or interferon beta-1a once a week. Study author Luca Durelli, MD, of the Universita' di Torino in Italy, and colleagues found that 51% of the patients who received the alternating days treatment remained relapse-free, while only 36% of the weekly treatment group were free of relapses.

In addition, MRI scans showed that 55% of the alternating-day group remained free of brain lesions associated with MS compared with 26% of the weekly treatment group.

In multiple sclerosis, the body's own immune system attacks the nervous system, creating symptoms such as muscle pain and stiffness, balance and coordination problems, numbness, and vision problems.

Although researchers don't know exactly how interferon beta drugs help MS patients, the drugs do affect the immune system and help the body fight off infections. Some researchers suggest that infections may trigger relapses of disease symptoms in people with MS.

In other multiple sclerosis news, a separate study suggests that a substance found in the curry spice turmeric may stop the progression of the disease.

When Vanderbilt University researchers injected laboratory rats that had been bred to develop MS with the substance, known as curcumin, the rats developed only minor symptoms or no symptoms at all, depending on the dose they'd received. Their study was presented this week at the Experimental Biology 2002 meeting.

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