After decades of basic research on M.S., the last five years have brought a rapid rollout of new and sophisticated drugs that are changing how this disease is managed and offering patients new hope.“We have a disease that’s gone from having no treatments 20 years ago to having multiple treatment options,” said Dr. Timothy Coetzee, the chief research officer at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “There is a growing recognition that M.S. is becoming a manageable disease.”
There have also been advances in treating specific symptoms of M.S. Within the past two years, three medications have been approved specifically for M.S. symptoms: Ampyra to improve walking, Nuedexta for uncontrollable laughing or crying, and Botox for urinary incontinence and spasticity in upper limbs.
Just last year, the first oral drug for M.S., Gilenya, gained approval with data showing it cut the relapse rate by 55 percent. Gilenya causes inflammatory cells called lymphocytes to get trapped in lymph nodes so they don’t travel to the brain, where they would damage neurons.Patients need to be monitored for several potentially serious side effects, including a slowed heart rate and liver and vision problems. One patient recently died 24 hours after starting on Gilenya; the Food and Drug Administration is investigating the cause of the death.
The most potent drug, Tysabri, reduces the relapse rate by about 70 percent, but it comes with a small risk of a fatal brain infection caused by a common virus. Patients may be screened for antibodies to the virus; the risk of infection is considered quite low in those with no sign of the antibodies, and they are given the drug.
At least four other drugs with different mechanisms are in Phase 3 clinical trials and could win approval within the next year, experts say. Some work by protecting nerves from damage.
Read about this in Laurie Tarkan’s article in the New York Times at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/27/health/new-drugs-raise-hope-for-patients-with-ms.html?partner=rss&emc=rss
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