FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Multiple Sclerosis Linked to Abnormal Liver
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TORONTO, ONTARIO - November 1,
Multiple sclerosis has been linked to abnormal liver test results
research findings announced by the Multiple Sclerosis Society
of Canada. The study was published in the October 10 edition
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
"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
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
"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
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
National Manager, Media Relations
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada