Lou Gehrig's Disease - Motor Neuron Disease - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Thought it had been cured by now? Still no known cause. Still no cure. Still quickly fatal. Still outrageous.

Friday, August 26, 2011

If You Were Recently Diagnosed With ALS, Your Best Friend May Be

You need to get to a neurologist doing clinical trials because anything the
least bit "promising" would be experimental.

Jose Biller, M.D. upon diagnosing a patient with ALS in 1996

That was guidance that unfortunately not every patient hears on the day of diagnosis. It is important because every patient deserves the opportunity to make informed decisions regarding options to fight the incurable disease and to contribute to the knowledge of that disease for future patients. Those informed decisions cannot be made after the window of clinical-trial eligibility has slammed shut, and in the case of ALS, many patients are not even diagnosed until much of their eligibility window has passed. After 24 to 36 months after first symptoms, even if you're lucky enough to still be alive and kicking, most clinical trials won't accept you.

People with ALS get spotty information from their neurologists regarding clinical trial opportunities. Some are actually discouraged because a trial might have bad side effects. Some docs don't mention trials outside of their own institutions. Others don't mention clinical trials at their institutions. This is nuts. People with ALS are perfectly capable of making their own medical decisions. Having information is a critical part of making medical decisions. Withholding information does not help.

There is a well-kept secret that can be of immense help to patients and families who would like to make their own informed decisions. There is a clinical trial expert available via email at or via phone at (877) 458-0631 Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. eastern time. This person is a physician and is knowledgeable on all ALS clinical trial possibilities. The position is funded by ALSA and NEALS (an ALS clinical trial incubator) and is a source for objective information to assist patients in their decisions.

Last week a message board told of a patient who was pursuing a clinical trial that was filling fast. She could not get a response from the investigator's email contact at She contacted the clinical trial expert and got some action. That's progress!

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