Medical Breakthrough: Living With MS

Tuesday, September 7th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Patients say multiple sclerosis doesn't have to mean a life of pain and debilitation anymore. Meet a woman who is proof that new medications can help. Five years ago, Julie and Max Ayers' plans to have a child were set off in the distance. Mrs. Ayers was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She remembers, "It was very frustrating because I felt healthy, but my body wasn't cooperating."

Luckily for Ayers, the first treatment for MS, called Betaseron, was just becoming available. Even luckier, her doctor, Kenneth Johnson, M.D., was able to help her get it right away. Dr. Johnson says, "It has a fundamental effect on the amount of damage which is occurring in the brain, and it's safe enough so it can be used for long periods of time."

For Ayers, the drug meant re-gaining control. "It's nice to not sit back and let this disease rule your life," she says. Nine months into treatment, Ayers went into remission. Today, her life is changed in more ways than one. Two-and-a-half years ago, she and Max adopted daughter Sierra. Julie explains, "We're very happy with what was happening, and we didn't want to delay having a family. So we decided to adopt."

While on the drug, Ayers couldn't get pregnant. When an MRI showed no signs of MS, however, she took a break from the medication, and today Sierra has a new playmate named Sawyer. Ayers is back on medication and expects to be able to indefinitely hold off MS. For now, she's fine with that because of a family that keeps her smiling.

There are now two other FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of MS: Avonex and Copaxone. Both slow the progression of MS and reduce painful attacks, and they have fewer side effects than Betaseron. All three medications are administered by shot. Betaseron is given under the skin every other day, Copaxone is also given under the skin but on a daily basis, and Avonex is once a week into a muscle.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Ellen Beth Levitt
University of Maryland Medical Center
News Office
22 S. Green Street
Baltimore, MD 20201
(410) 328-8919