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Super-Early MS Treatment Best

Permanent Disability Delayed by Betaseron After First MS-Like Event

Rx: Super-Early MS Treatment continued...

Betaseron is given to patients every other day via injection under the skin. The side effects are flu-like symptoms, which tend to subside after a patient becomes accustomed to the drug.

Rebif is another beta-interferon given by subcutaneous injection. Avonex is a form of beta-interferon given by once-weekly muscle injections. Fox says he thinks these treatments should work as well as Betaseron, but this has yet to be demonstrated in clinical trials.

While the new findings are good news for people who get MS in the future, they are sobering news for patients whose treatment started later in the course of their disease.

"The damage continues to fester two to three years later despite the fact that patients are on beta-interferon," Freedman says. Even the delayed treatment is effective -- but you don't regain what you lost."

Late Treatment Still Effective

Don't tell Amelia Davis that late treatment doesn't help. Davis, now 38, was diagnosed with remitting/relapsing MS two months before her 30th birthday, after she woke to find the left side of her body had gone numb from head to toe.

It was not an early diagnosis.

"In my 20s, I went completely blind in my left eye," Davis tells WebMD. "That lasted four weeks, and then my sight came back. I was in college, pulling all-nighters, so I thought it was just the stress and the eye strain."

Four years later, the same thing happened again. Again she wrote it off to working too hard. A few years later, she lost the feeling in both hands for awhile. But she never sought help until half her body went numb.

At the University of California, San Francisco, doctors quickly diagnosed Davis's MS and put her on Betaseron. In the eight years since, she's never had another MS attack.

"Whatever damage was done to me is irreversible," Davis acknowledges. "The great news is, on the outside I am not disabled looking. Because I have been on this drug for so long and am still in remission, I think I am going to stay in this remission stage for the rest of my life."

Davis has advice for other people with MS.

"If you get on aggressive drug therapy early, it is really proven to slow the disease down. It can stop a major MS episode from happening, where the body cannot repair itself," she says.

Davis is now a successful photographer. In 2004, she published her second book, My Story: A Photographic Essay on Life with Multiple Sclerosis. Davis also serves as president of MSFriends, a 24-hour multiple sclerosis hotline that can be reached at (866) MSFRIENDS. Betaseron maker Bayer is the main sponsor of MSFriends.

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