Feb. 8, 2000 Individuals with myasthenia gravis are being sought for participation in a clinical trial that will determine if a new treatment is effective in reducing muscle fatigue and weakness. The pilot study is being conducted by neurologists from Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago.
Myasthenia gravis is a chronic muscular disease that weakens the voluntary muscles of the body. Myasthenia gravis is the result of a communication problem between the nerve and the muscles that control eye movement, eyelids, facial expressions, chewing, coughing and swallowing. Muscles that control breathing and movements of the arms and legs may also be affected.
"Muscle weakness occurs when a person's muscle fibers are unable to obtain impulses from the nerve endings which are connected to the brain. The body's immune system has antibodies that are supposed to protect it from foreign attacking proteins. However, in patients with myasthenia gravis, there are abnormal antibodies that are destroying or blocking the receptor sites between the muscles and nerves resulting in miscommunication and fatigue," said Matthew Meriggioli, MD, a neurologist at Rush.
The current treatments for myasthenia gravis include prednisone, azethioprine and cyclosporin. All of these medications have side effects that range from weight gain and high blood pressure to accelerated osteoporosis or suppression of bone marrow. Although remission is possible in some cases, doctors at Rush want to find a way to lower the dosage of the drugs to reduce side effects, yet equal benefit. It is hoped that the drug begin tested, Cellcept, may have fewer side effects, equal benefits and quicker onset of action that the other drugs.
According to Dr. Julie Rowin, MD, a neurologist at Rush, "Cellcept may give us another option in a limited field for those patients who cannot tolerate the other drugs. The onset is quicker, much like steroids and with smaller side effects."
Only 14 out of 100,000 people are diagnosed with some form of myasthenia gravis and Rush is a leader in the treatment of this disorder. The clinical trial is recruiting 20 patients with varying forms of myasthenia gravis weaknesses to participate in a double blind placebo controlled test to test the safety and efficacy of this new drug. Quantitative testing including grip strength and functional motor skills will be conducted and rated. Individuals should call (312) 942-4500 for more information about participating in the clinical trial.
Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center includes the 809-bed Presbyterian-St. Luke's Hospital; 154-bed Johnston R. Bowman Health Center for the Elderly; Rush University (Rush Medical College, College of Nursing, College of Health Sciences and Graduate College); and seven Rush Institutes providing diagnosis, treatment and research into leading health problems. The medical center is the tertiary hub of the Rush System for Health, a comprehensive healthcare system capable of serving about three million people through its outpatient facilities and eight member hospitals.
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