Promising drug proves ineffective as treatment for hearing loss

Researchers have demonstrated that Methotrexate, a promising drug to treat hearing loss in patients with autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED), proved no more effective than placebo in a recently concluded four-year study.

In findings published in the October 8, 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a team headed by University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Professor and Chief of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, Jeffrey Harris, M.D., also noted that the steroid Prednisione proved very effective in both stabilizing and helping over 57% of the AIED patients regain hearing.

"AIED is a rapidly progressive form of sensorineural hearing loss. If left untreated or treated inadequately, AIED can result in profound deafness," says Harris. "We've known for some time that steroids are effective in improving hearing loss in AIED."

However, he noted, the many side effects associated with maintaining prolonged steroid therapy has led to the search for more effective drugs to treat this condition over the long term. And, once the steroids are withdrawn, the hearing loss may reoccur. Methotrexate has been considered a promising drug to treat AIED, due to its long track record as an effective anti-inflammatory, says Harris, improving patients with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that affects the body's joints. Since AIED is also an autoimmune condition, Harris says researchers hoped the drug would have the same therapeutic effect.

AIED starts with the rapid appearance of bilateral, fluctuating and progressive, asymmetrical sensorineural hearing loss. Patients show hearing loss and usually tinnitus. Several blood tests are now being tested to identify patients with AIED. Approximately two-thirds of patients exhibit this autoimmune disease in their ears. In the other third, patients may have some of the well-known rheumatic diseases occurring concurrently with the hearing loss.

"In earlier s

Contact: Jeffree Itrich
University of California - San Diego

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