Although the earliest recorded description of multiple sclerosis (MS) dates back
to the 14th century, it was first identified as a specific disease in the 19th
century, and it wasn't until the latter years of the 20th century that treatments
Through the 1800s and up until the mid 1900s, doctors were grasping at straws to
find an effective treatment, relying on trial and error while testing a wide range
of unusual medications and unexpected therapies.
Early medications for treating MS, however, were not without their hurdles. Trials with
both interferon alpha and gamma proved unsuccessful, as did treatment with oral
myelin, cladribine, sulfasalazine and inhibitors of tumour necrosis factor. In 1993,
is when it all changed and we were introduced to the first therapy proven to be
effective in altering the natural history of relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS).
Prior to 1993, which is not that long ago, no disease modifying medications to
treat MS existed. The only "treatment" of MS were steroids that possessed
anti-inflammatory properties. The purpose then was for the steroids to attempt to
reduce the duration and severity of an exacerbation. Today, steroids are still being
used, either to slow things down during an exacerbation or when progression has
taken someone beyond the use of the disease modifying drugs. The main problems with
using steroids is the possible side effects being mainly weight gain, seizures,
and psychosis. As time has gone on, it has been felt that this type of treatment
was more appropriate for those with movement, rather than sensory, symptoms.
The main steroids used for MS treatments has included adrenocorticotropic
hormone (ACTH), prednisone, prednisolone, betamethasone, and dexamethasone.
Other than these limited choices, there was no drug available that attacked MS
head on. So if anyone was diagnosed prior to 1993, there was very little, if
anything, that could be done except for putting a "bandage" over the wound. You
could even go as far as to say that they were being put out to "pasture". The
speed and extent of disability on an individual prior to 1993 compared to the
present time is significant.
The 1980's provided science with a chance to begin fighting back with research
that looked for specific target to strike. The first true drug for fighting MS
was just around the corner, and there were a great number of people ready to
finally fight it head on. All of that research was about to introduce to the