The Evolving Lexicon of MS Care
When I was a medical student it was common for doctors, in the interest of the patient, to delay divulging the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS). There was no effective treatment. Neurologists could offer support and try to palliate symptoms, but were helpless in arresting the disease’s progressive impact on the central nervous system. It wasn’t until the 1990′s that the first wave of disease modifying therapies became available.
The impact of these therapies, however statistically significant, was clinically modest. As it was, our conversations with patients focused on our ability to reduce relapses of the disease, synonymous with slowing-down a then inevitable neurological degradation.
MS research has thankfully led to more effective therapies. The emergence of Tysabri, Cladribine and Campath, have all played a part in bettering patient prognosis. Though these medications have severe side-effects, they have succeeded in introducing some optimism to the field, as illucidated by today’s changing medical euphemisms. Where once we discussed how best to slow disease progression, it’s presently not uncommon to see patients with an absence of measurable disease activity.
The future will hopefully introduce new MS medical milestones, along with concordant doctor-patient terminology. Two new drug studies comprised of MS patients will begin this year. Each study will test a different and completely novel drug, and both studies will be conducted in the hopes of observing measurable amounts of remyelination. It’s therefore likely that the MS buzzwords on the horizon will gravitate towards a completely new concept: repair. With positive results will come more studies in order to confirm and fully comprehend these new therapies, yet, with any luck, measurements of disease activity will likely be replaced by measurements of regained neurological function.
Dr. François Jacques
Director of the Multiple Sclerosis clinic