MS Research Roundup: January 17, 2014
MS Rising in Global Disease Rankings; Booming Business in MS Drugs; Life's Big Questions
MS Research Roundup collects items of interest to multiple sclerosis researchers from around the Web. Send us your tips: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Global Disease Rankings
The top two causes of death and disability around the world (heart disease and stroke) haven't changed much in 20 years, but MS has crept up in the rankings, from 108 to 102 among overall causes of death. But rankings differ by gender, geography and income. For high-income women in Canada, MS moved from 63 to 48 as a cause of death, for example, while for men in New Zealand, MS moved from 71 to 65. These are a few ways to parse the Global Burden of Disease data at "a stunning interactive website operated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington (started in 2007 with money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)," pointed out the Fire in the Mind blog, with a promise (or is that a warning?): "One can spend hours entering parameters and watching how the rankings change. It is one of the most interesting and instructive stops on the Web." (Discover Magazine.com)
MS Drugs: Good for Business
MS therapeutics have helped make Cambridge, MA–based drugmaker Biogen Idec Inc. "one of the hottest biotechnology companies on the planet," enthused the Boston Globe. "Biogen Idec’s sales jumped 21 percent during the first nine months of 2013 on the strength of its US launch of the multiple sclerosis pill Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate), which quickly became the market leader in oral MS treatments," with others in the pipeline. Avonex (interferon beta-1a) seems to be hanging in there, and "yet another Biogen Idec MS drug could come to the market this year." Nearby Waltham-based Alkermes said they will start a phase 1 clinical trial this summer on a better version of the biologically active molecule in dimethyl fumarate, aiming for once-daily dosing (instead of two) and less gastrointestinal irritation. Meanwhile, Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. told Reuters they were "completely confident" that the FDA will shortly approve a three-times-weekly version of its blockbuster multiple sclerosis daily drug Copaxone (glatiramer acetate injection). (Boston Globe, Bloomberg Businessweek, Reuters, Wall Street Journal)
Life's Big Questions
We can't let the television and motion picture awards season go by without a mention of the film, What Is Life? The Movie, by Howard Weiner, M.D. Better known for 30 years of MS research and clinical care, Weiner studied philosophy at Dartmouth College before embarking on a career as a neurologist and neuroscientist. The feature-length documentary began as "a list of life's big questions that I would ask at dinner parties," according to the director's comments. Weiner also authored Curing MS: How Science Is Solving the Mysteries of Multiple Sclerosis.
This post was updated to clarify the MS rankings in the global burden of disease.