New MS drug shows great promise

Recent results of a phase III clinical trial have shown that a new drug for the treatment of multiple sclerosis is likely to become one step closer to being approved for treatment. The new medication is the first type of drug that will hopefully not just prevents the nerve damage that multiple sclerosis causes but will also reverse some of the damage.

The results were presented this October at a multiple sclerosis research conference which took place in Amsterdam. Nearly 80% of those who are treated with the new drug did not have a relapse for two years. This is half the rate that is seen with other therapies.

The only disappointing part of the new trial was that the drug seemed to be less effective than it had been in previous trials. This trial showed that the reversal of nerve damage was less significant than in previous studies. In fact, the level of significant reversal of damage had dropped to a level that was statistically insignificant.

Alasdair Coles is a researcher at the University of Cambridge and he showed at the conference that those who are taking the new drug which is called alemtuzumab lost much less brain volume than those patients who were treated with another type of medication. Less than 10% of patients in the trial had their condition worsen while they were on the drug, compared with 11% of those who taking the leading alternative therapy, Rebif.

Ludwig Kappos is head of neurology at the University Hospital of Basel and he has commented, “It is unfortunate to see that the results of this latest trial are less promising than that of the phase II study. However I do expect that further phase III studies will show the drug to be as effective as it was in the phase II groups.”

Unfortunately, multiple sclerosis is a disease that currently has no cure. Drugs such as interferon are prescribed to help slow the condition but it will progress and nerves that speed the brain signals will be damaged eventually. This new drug essentially works by resetting the body’s immune system meaning that the damage will no longer be caused and this can in fact cause the condition to be reversed.

Some healthcare professionals have said that the effectiveness of the new drug is impressive but that is not the reason why it is not on the market, the drug is yet to be proved to be safe. Taking the drug gives patients an increased risk of suffering from an autoimmune disease. Nearly 1% of people involved in the trial suffered from the potentially life-threatening condition called thrombocytopenia. Avoiding this risk is possible however by screening patients before they take the drug, there are certain bio markers which indicate people who are at a higher risk of developing the condition.