Perspectives in MS
Perspectives in MS

Goodbye!

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Goodbye!!!  Unfortunately, this is going to be my last column for now.  Let me take this chance to thank the folks at Healthline for giving me the opportunity to write as much as I did. The one requirement I made when I started writing is that none of my columns would be influenced in any way by pharmaceutical interests.  And Healthline has kept their  promise that this would be the case. I have been free to write whatever I felt without any pressure or interference. 

I would certainly like to thank the many readers who submitted questions to me. I hope that readers of these posts have found them informative and accurate. I enjoyed peoples’ questions and their responses to my columns. It was always nice to know that people read what I had to say, even when they did not agree with it. I will still check my e-mail address on this website, so please feel free to continue to make comments or ask questions. 

I would like to end my writing here on a hopeful note, especially for younger patients and those patients recently diagnosed with MS. The first treatment for MS was approved in 1993. Prior to this, there was nothing to treat MS. Now, in 2012 we have many new medications that have a powerful impact on slowing down the rate of disease progression.  This number will only grow in the next few years giving doctors and patients alike new medications and strategies to combat the illness. One cannot meaningfully compare someone diagnosed with MS in recent years to someone diagnosed in the past. Patient diagnosed prior to the advent of disease-modifying therapies existed in a different clinical era.  While MS patients face an uncertain future, there are reasons for optimism now that this did not exist only a short time ago. This article from the New York Times makes this point nicely here.

This is not to say that there is not work to be done. There is still a lot to be done. The current treatments all have their problems, and there is frustratingly little that we can do about patients who have progressive disease.  Also, there is nothing we can do at present to repair damage once it has been done.  This deficit is not only true of MS, but of almost every other disease that affects the central nervous system.  Neurologists cannot replace a damaged brain any more than an orthopedist can regrow an amputated limb. Research in the field of remyelination is active, however, and in the same way that treatments are available for MS now that were unimaginable only a short time ago, I am confident that important new discoveries and treatments will be made in the future.  I have little doubt that when I talk to patients in the year 2040, I will be telling them about how limited our options were in the year 2012. 

One of the most frequent question patients ask me is why I decided to specialize in MS. Why would anyone want to go into a field where treatments are so limited, they wonder. There are many answers to this question. First of all, the brain is the most interesting part of the human body.  It is a fascinating, amazing, infinitely complex organ. (Can anyone say the same about the liver or the colon?)  Additionally, I like the idea of knowing my patients for many years and not just seeing them for a one-time procedure or visit. But mostly, I expect that over the course of my career the science and understanding of MS will progress to the point where it is a manageable, treatable, and maybe even preventable disease.  I want to be a part of that.

I would also like to alert readers to a new MS website that has a lot of valuable information.  It is called MS Atrium and can be found here:  https://www.msatrium.com/.  It does not seem to have been updated in awhile, and I don’t know how often additions will be added, but there is a lot of good information there- and the website itself is quite impressive. Hopefully readers will find answers to their questions there.

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About the Author

Dr. Howard is a neurologist & psychiatrist, and an expert in multiple sclerosis.

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