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Data supports extremely early intervention for multiple sclerosis patients

MILAN, ITALY, September 20, 2003 Immediate initiation of drug treatment with Avonex in individuals considered at risk to develop multiple sclerosis (MS) continues to slow the development of MS after five years compared to initiation of therapy more than two years after the onset of symptoms, according to data being presented today at the meeting of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in MS (ECTRIMS).

The findings by principal investigator R. Philip Kinkel, M.D., director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, are the result of a clinical trial known as Controlled High Risk Avonex Multiple Sclerosis Prevention Study in Ongoing Neurological Surveillance (CHAMPIONS), the longest study among MS patients followed from the onset of symptoms. The study was sponsored by Biogen, Inc., maker of Avonex (interferon beta-1a).

"Multiple sclerosis is the most common disabling illness affecting young adults, generally striking between ages 20 and 40," says Kinkel, who is also Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. A chronic disease of the central nervous system, MS affects nearly 1 million individuals worldwide. "Being able to initiate very early treatment could significantly delay the onset of severe neurological symptoms including loss of vision, mobility and cognitive ability in this young population."

One of the primary problems in diagnosing multiple sclerosis, explains Kinkel, is that the disease nearly escapes notice in its earliest stages. "The initial symptoms of MS are often non-specific [pins and needles sensations in a limb, electrical sensations, non-specific dizziness or extreme fatigue], suddenly appearing and then disappearing within a short period of time, only to recur and become obvious much later after the disease has already spread throughout the nervous system." To make matters worse, not all patients who experience definite MS-like symptoms from the ons
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Contact: Bonnie Prescott
bprescot@bidmc.harvard.edu
617-667-7306
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
20-Sep-2003


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