Can Progressive MS Be Slowed Down?
Sep 07 2018 Read 606 Times
Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects more than two million people worldwide, with the disease causing the immune system to eat away at the protective covering of nerves in the brain and spinal cord. This degradation of the central nervous system is called demyelination and actively disrupts the flow of information between the brain and the body, which can trigger a host of symptoms, including fatigue, numbness, vision problems and depression, as well as tremors, seizures and speech problems in severe cases.
Now, a breakthrough phase two clinical trial sponsored by a pharmaceutical company called MediciNova has revealed that a popular asthma and stroke drug has the potential to dramatically slow the neurological damage of multiple sclerosis by nearly 50 percent.
Anti-inflammatory drug steps up as MS treatment
Known as ibudilast, the anti-inflammatory drug is currently used to treat asthma and stroke patients in Japan and Korea, though hasn't been approved in the US. The trail included 255 primary or secondary MS patients, with 129 administered ibudilast and 126 assigned a placebo. Researchers tracked the progress of multiple sclerosis over a two-year period and found that while patients in both groups showed brain neuron loss, deterioration was 48 percent less severe for those who took a daily 100mg dose of ibudilast.
The findings were reported in The New England Journal of Medicine and represent an exciting new breakthrough for the MS community.
"These findings are significant for patients with progressive MS,” asserts Dr Robert Fox, the study's principal investigator. "Our hope is that the benefit of ibudilast in slowing brain shrinkage will also translate to decreased progression of associated physical disabilities in a future phase 3 trial."
New drug granted "fast-track" status
In the wake of the study, the FDA has granted MediciNova "fast-track" status to develop ibudilast as a treatment for progressive MS. With very few medications currently available to treat the disease, ibudilast could emerge as a buoyant new solution for decelerating continual nervous system decline.
"Although a larger study is needed to confirm these findings, this promising study brings people with progressive MS, who currently do not have many treatment options, one step closer to a potential therapy," says Robin Conwit, MD, program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
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