Katie Brind’Amour (left), my expert guest blogger, fills in the gaps in my knowledge about Interferon. She’s a Certified Health Education Specialist and freelance health and wellness writer based in America who writes for Healthline.com and WomensHealthcareTopics.com:
Here’s to a Long, Healthy Life
MS is no longer the threat to life expectancy as it once was. Why? Meds and research. Yay!
One of these meds, often used in treating relapsing-remitting MS, is known as interferon beta-1b. Introduced over 20 years ago, it may just be one of the most important MS drugs on the market and is typically used to reduce the number of MS flare-ups experienced by individuals with relapsing-remitting MS.
Interferon beta-1b is an injected drug taken every other day. It is a man-made drug that serves the function of a naturally occurring protein in the body. The medication is not necessarily used permanently and may be regularly adjusted in dosage based on side effects, effectiveness, and changing patient needs.
A Look at Interferon Beta-1B
Since the landmark interferon beta-1b trial at the University of California, the news regarding interferon beta-1b seems to have gotten even better. When the drug was first being tested, MS patients were split into groups—two of which received different dosages of the interferon beta-1b injections and one of which received a placebo. After the trial ended and successfully demonstrated the potential of interferon beta-1b to reduce the number of MS attacks, participants were followed for over two decades. They were allowed to take any and all medications that they and their doctors saw fit after the trial ended.
In a recent follow-up study, the researchers checked back in with participants to find out if interferon beta-1b had any longer-term impact on MS. Patients who had received interferon beta-1b were, in fact, significantly less likely to have died of MS-related problems. Although the cohort is still rather young on average, most people in the interferon beta-1b groups that died fell prey to what kills the rest of the world—cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and accidents. People who hadn’t been in the initial interferon beta-1b group were more likely to have died by the follow-up period, but virtually all of the “excess deaths” in that group were attributable to MS-related problems.
It is important to note that the follow-up study can’t tell whether the ability of interferon beta-1b to reduce MS-related death is due to early exposure or simply a longer lifetime exposure level to the drug. Either way, however, it shows that interferon beta-1b seems to have dramatically narrowed the life expectancy gap for MS patients with relapse-remitting MS. And that’s a darn good thing.
Good News for MS Patients
Treatments and novel therapies are targeting every stage of MS to help make life better for individuals with the diagnosis. Since MS can feel like a chronic downer as much as a chronic illness, it’s good to keep these positive developments in mind.
Slowly but surely, we’re getting better at preventing MS progression and delaying MS-related disabilities. MS specialists are learning how to identify symptoms earlier, select the best treatments quicker, address complications more appropriately, and give patients the tools they need to feel confident and capable in their battle against MS.
And this is all surely good news. I’ll drink to that!