Two New Promising Treatments for MS

Reported by: Lauren Gawthrop
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Updated: 4/30/2012 7:36 am
Two new Multiple Sclerosis drugs may offer patients more convenient ways to manage the debilitating disease. MS is often treated with injections, but two new studies look at a yearly IV infusion and an oral pill. One of the drugs on the horizon is a yearly IV infusion called Alemtuzumab. 

This drug was studied in over 800 patients with relapsing MS, and results show that it is more effective in treating this type of MS than standard 3-times per week injections of interferon Beta-1A.

In fact, 65% of patients treated with the new drug were relapse-free after two years and some even improved.

Researchers say the drug is convenient and highly effective which makes it attractive, but it's not for everyone. 

"Most likely this drug will be used in patients with very active MS, probably in patients that have tried other medications and either got little benefit or intolerable side effects," said Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, an MS expert. "Because it's so potent, I think it's unlikely that it will be used as a first treatment for most people."

Additional research looks at a pill called BG-12. It's the second oral medication to treat MS. Researchers studied over 1,400 patients worldwide with relapsing-remitting MS.

BG-12 was compared to placebo and a standard injection called GA. Results show BG-12 reduced annual relapse rates and the number of brain lesions.

Side effects were generally milder than other available MS therapies and include skin flushing, stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting mostly during the first few weeks of treatment.

Dr. Robert Fox led the study and believes BG-12 may be an attractive potential therapy for MS.

"Many patients, as you might imagine, prefer an oral pill over an injection and with this therapy being as effective and very well tolerated and very safe, it makes BG-12 a very attractive option for MS patients should it get approved," said Dr. Robert Fox, another MS expert at Cleveland Clinic.

Both studies were presented at the Annual American Academy of Neurology meeting in New Orleans.
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