New year offers hope for MS patients

Erika James-Jackson

Erika James-Jackson was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in her early thirties after having vertigo, dizziness and vision loss.

MS is a disease of the central nervous system with symptoms that vary greatly and are often disabling. Most people are between 20- and 50-years-old when diagnosed and two-thirds are women.

“I didn't know exactly what that meant for me but I knew it wasn't good,” she says. “It's trying to climb uphill with an anchor on your ankle.”

But doctors say 2012 is a year full of hope for patients.

“Twenty years ago, there were no drugs that were approved to change the course of the disease,” says Dr. Daniel Reich, a neurologist. “Now there are eight on the market.”

The treatments include, most recently, the first oral medication called Gilenya

James-Jackson says she struggled with three injectable medications before finding success with the pill.

“Now is the first time I've been stable for one year and that is something worth celebrating,” she says.

Seth Morgan, 56, a retired neurologist, also switched after two years of injecting himself with a drug that clouded his thinking.

“The pill is not perfect - but cognitively and in terms of comfort level I'm able to take the pill instead of having to inject myself,” he says.

Researchers at the NIH Neurology Institute say patients' quality of life is also improving.

And though still quite tired, James-Jackson says her hope is restored.

“There were times when I thought, ‘Am I going to be able to go to my son's graduation?’” she says. “And now I believe I can do it. I will make it. I'm certain of that.”

For more information, go to the web sites of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the NIH and click here for patients interested in participating in clinical trials.