At the 2019 Lawson Impact Awards on April 11, Dr. Sarah Morrow was awarded the Dr. Joseph Gilbert Research Contribution of the Year Award for her publication, “Effect of Treating Acute Optic Neuritis with Bioequivalent Oral vs. Intravenous Corticosteroids: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” in JAMA Neurology. This award recognizes scientists who have had a recent publication that describes a significant contribution to research, based on a single publication.
Dr. Morrow’s research focuses on two main areas of Multiple Sclerosis; cognition in patients with MS, as well as the use of corticosteroids for treating patients with MS.
Dr. Morrow’s winning publication compared equivalent doses of IV and oral corticosteroids for the treatment of acute optic neuritis on visual recovery over six months. Optic neuritis is an inflammatory disorder which can cause painful loss of vision.
“The use of oral steroids is very important to patients with MS,” explains Dr. Morrow. “It gives them the opportunity to treat optic neuritis without having to visit a large hospital. It is also much easier and more convenient for them to administer the medication themselves, at home in their own community.”
The study successfully demonstrated the bioequivalence of high dose oral and IV corticosteroids, showing the two forms of treatment can achieve the same outcome. It also found that compliance with oral treatment is less of an issue, as most patients prefer this method. Oral treatment is less expensive and more accessible for patients living in rural areas without easy access to IV treatment.
“A study of this nature requires an enormous amount of effort and dedication on top of a physician’s regular duties,” says Dr. David Steven, Morrow’s nominator. “Sarah is extremely hard working, and her commitment to her patients and improving their care certainly makes her deserving of this award.”
Researchers had to be ready to recruit a patient at any moment. When they received a call from a referring physician they would have to act quickly since it was important the study did not delay treatment for the patient.
The results of this study have led to national and international changes in how optic neuritis is treated. Dr. Morrow’s research has improved access to emergency care for people living with MS, and drastically reduced MS treatment costs to the patient as well as the health care system.
“It is a great feeling to know that my research has had such a positive impact, and an honour to be presented with this award,” says Dr. Morrow.