MS Research Roundup: April 30, 2014
Cannabis for MS; Relapsing After Pregnancy; MS Interactive Map With Treatment Trends
MS Research Roundup collects items of interest to multiple sclerosis researchers from around the Web. Send us your tips: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cannabis for MS
The big news on the first day of the world’s largest annual gathering of neurologists emanated from a new literature review on the efficacy and safety of cannabis. It can probably help alleviate multiple sclerosis symptoms such as pain, overactive bladder, and muscle stiffness, but doesn’t work to dampen drug-induced movements in Parkinson’s disease, according to the April 29 paper in Neurology. As for other neurological diseases, there’s not enough evidence. “I think it is a positive finding, and it makes me feel more comfortable telling patients to use medical marijuana,” said Howard Weiner, M.D., director of the Partners MS Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in the Boston Globe. If the news sounds familiar—for MS, anyway—you may be remembering headlines from March, when the same committee published a separate guideline on marijuana and other alternative products as treatments for various aspects of MS, where greater evidence exists than for its use in other conditions. The latest findings were showcased at a press conference. The study looked at medical marijuana, mostly in pill and spray form, which authors said was more beneficial than street pot. (American Academy of Neurology, Boston Globe, CBS, FoxNews.com, MedPage Today, Multiple Sclerosis International Federation)
In a moving piece, writer and editor Natasha Gardner shares the personal impact of her MS diagnosis, coming immediately after the birth of her son. (“Ironically, as I have been demyelinating, Oliver has been myelinating.”) She reflects on the relative benefits of being diagnosed in this day and age. “The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been a boon to people like me. It ensures I, and others with pre-existing conditions, can switch health carriers without worrying about my application being denied or a new plan being too expensive. The ACA also means people won’t be bound to their current employers over the fear of losing their health insurance. Because of these two changes, much of the current literature about MS care and treatment is already outdated. Not only can I continue to work, but I’ll also have more control over what ‘work’ and ‘insurance’ might look like in two years, or 20. The new medication means that instead of carrying around syringes, I can tuck my daily dose into my jeans pocket. The diagnosis process has also changed: 20 years ago, I would have been dismissed as an exhausted new parent who was overwhelmed by the unfamiliar demands of motherhood. Maybe they would have sent me to a shrink and prescribed antidepressants—while my immune system continued to attack my brain.” (5280: The Denver Magazine) (Tip from @stevesilberman)
MS Data at a Click of the Mouse
What does a data warrior princess do when her mom has MS? She copes in many helpful ways—learns, volunteers, lobbies her state legislature to help make MS drugs affordable for retired people. And she brings the Atlas of MS to life by creating the data visualization of the day (embedded below). Using Tableau Public, the free tool to make data interactive in Web browsers, she shows how this disease changed from 2008 to 2013 in terms of worldwide prevalence, demographics, and treatments. She aims to help raise awareness about the MS that affects her mom and the 399,999 other people in this country and 1.6 million worldwide at last count. (Wannabe Awesome Me)