Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Multiple Sclerosis Linked to Abnormal Liver Test Results

NOVEMBER 1, 2006 - 09:30 ET

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 1, 2006) - Multiple sclerosis has been linked to abnormal liver test results according to research findings announced by the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. The study was published in the October 10 edition of Neurology.

According to Dr. Helen Tremlett, assistant professor at the University of British Columbia and lead researcher on the study, the results could mean that people with MS need to take extra care when using medications that might affect their liver and be alert to any possible symptoms of liver disease.

"I would recommend people with MS have their liver tested as a routine part of their care when being treated with drugs known to affect the liver," Dr. Tremlett says. "In addition, people need to inform their doctor immediately if there is any presentation of liver disease symptoms such as jaundice (yellow skin or yellowing of the whites of the eye), itchy skin and unexpected fatigue."

The liver is the organ responsible for plasma synthesis, drug detoxification and digestion. Diseases of the liver include hepatitis and cirrhosis.

To make the link, the researchers used data from the Sylvia Lawry Centre for MS Research in Germany, the largest database of MS clinical trial information in the world. In all, medical information from 813 people with MS enrolled in various clinical trials from North America, Australia and Europe was analyzed. The study was funded by the MS Society of Canada.

Over a two-year period, there was an over three-fold increased risk of a person with MS having an elevated liver test result compared to expectations. An elevated test result indicates that liver enzymes have leaked out of their cells. This leakage into the blood stream may be an indicator of liver cell damage.

Over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen or herbal remedies may cause elevated levels of liver enzymes in the blood.

"People with MS or any chronic disease need to carefully monitor their medications," notes Dr. William J. McIlroy, national medical advisor for the MS Society of Canada. "Both the patient's doctor and their pharmacist should be fully aware all the therapies being taken to ensure symptoms and test results are not misinterpreted."

An earlier study also funded by the MS Society of Canada and led by Dr. Tremlett showed that certain prescribed MS drugs - commonly described as "beta interferons" - can increase the risk of liver disturbances. However, the current study examined those who were not on beta interferon treatment.

"Although beta interferons do further increase the risk of an elevated test, we know now that abnormal liver tests can result independent of this treatment," says Dr. Tremlett. "The next step is to determine why this is and hopefully add another piece to the complex puzzle that is MS."

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system - the brain and spinal cord. The disease attacks the protective myelin covering of the central nervous system, causing inflammation and often destroying the myelin in patches. The severity of MS and its progression varies from person-to-person. Symptoms of MS include blurred vision, extreme fatigue, loss of balance, problems with coordination and painful stiffness of muscles among many others.

It is estimated that 55,000 - 75,000 Canadians have MS. A recent survey by Leger Marketing showed that half of Canadians know someone with MS. The MS Society of Canada is the highest per capita funder of MS research in the world. In 2006, the MS Society allocated $4.5 million in new research funding.

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
Stewart Wong
National Manager, Media Relations
(416) 967-3025