Drug Improves Mobility for Some MS Patients

An experimental drug has been found to help improve the walking ability of some patients afflicted with multiple sclerosis. This is the result arrived at by a multi-center Phase 3 clinical trial that was recently published in the February 26 edition of the journal Lancet.

The said experimental drug, known as fampridine or 4-aminopyridine, underwent a Phase 3 clinical trial which involved testing 301 adults with MS at 33 different locations in the US and Canada over a period of 14 weeks. Three fourths of the participants were given the drug while the rest were given a placebo. The said goal of the study was to try and assess the effects of fampridine on the participants.

Whereas other clinical trials involving MS drugs are evaluated based on their ability to prevent relapses of the disease, this recent clinical trial tried to assess and evaluate the changes it made in terms of mobility and muscle strength improvement. Prior studies made by the lead author of the study, Andrew Goodman, M.D., chief of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and a colleague, the late Steven Schwid, MD, allowed them to be able to determine significant changes the patient’s gait or walking speed over distance.

Employing the methods developed in the previous studies, the group found that about 34.8 percent of the patients who took the drug experienced significant improvement at a round 25 percent in their walking speed as compared to only 8.3 percent in the participants who took a placebo.

Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease characterized by mobility problems and muscle weakness caused by the immune system attacking the myelin sheath, a fatty tissue that acts as insulation to nerve fibers in the spinal cord. Damaged myelin usually results in disrupted signals in the spinal cord going to the brain to the other parts of the body, resulting in the various symptoms associated with the disease.

The researchers believe that the drug fampridine helps improve the transmission of signals in the central nervous system in some of the MS patients by blocking potassium ion channels which serve as gates on the cell surfaces and regulate the normal electrical activity. In other laboratory experiments that involves nerve fibers with damaged myelin similar to MS, scientists have found that blocking the potassium ion channels resulted in a recovery of signal conduction in the nerve fibers.

Source: University of Rochester Medical Center. "Drug Improves Mobility For Some Multiple Sclerosis Patients." ScienceDaily 26 February 2009. 3 March 2009.

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