The Future of Symptom Relief
Until a cure is found, much of the focus in treating MS will be on managing and improving symptoms. Here are a few of the treatments on the horizon for MS symptoms:
Fatigue. Researchers have found that people with MS who take four regular aspirin tablets per day reduced fatigue compared to those who took the placebo. Further study is under way. People interested in this approach should discuss this with their physician, since long-term use of high-dose aspirin may cause side effects.
Pain. Sativex (GW Pharmaceuticals), a drug derived from the cannabis plant, is being studied for effectiveness in relieving pain and other MS-related symptoms. It is administered as a spray directly into the mouth and is approved for use in Canada.
Spasticity. Studies are under way to test the effectiveness and safety of Sativex and other marijuana-related therapies as a way to relieve spasticity in MS.
Mobility. Researchers are looking at a new rehabilitative technique called locomotor training, which is an activity-based therapy that attempts to retrain the brain to remember the pattern of walking. In MS, an individual is assisted by a robotic device that moves the legs.
Bladder function. Scientists have developed a “bladder pacemaker” that has helped people with urinary incontinence in preliminary trials. The pacemaker, is surgically implanted, and controlled by a hand-held unit that allows the patient to electrically stimulate the nerves that control bladder function.
Researchers are also trying to identify subtypes of MS based on MRI findings, specific proteins in the blood or spinal fluid, and specific genes. It is hoped that these subtypes may respond particularly well to specific kinds of therapies. This type of work may lead to MS treatment that is “tailored” to the individual in the future.