New Oral Drug Found to Reduce Relapses in Multiple Sclerosis Patients

There is some good news for a great number of MS sufferers. A large international clinical trial has provided some good results on an oral drug that was developed to treat people with multiple sclerosis. The results are showing that the said oral drug seems to significantly reduce the relapse rate of the said disease as well as slow down its progression. The results of the clinical trial were recently published in the Oct. 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Multiple sclerosis is considered as one of the more common disabling neurological disorders that affect many people around the world. This condition is characterized by debilitating symptoms that comes as a result of the body’s own immune system attacking the myelin sheath that surrounds the nerve cells. Myelin acts as proper insulation to allow nerve cells to transmit electrical signals to and from the central nervous system. Damaged myelin can affect the nerve cell’s ability to send signals, which can result to a variety of symptoms in persons afflicted with MS.

While a cure for MS has not yet been found, there are some forms or treatments and therapies available that only aim to reduce or treat those symptoms associated with the disease. The traditional ones usually involved using injectible drugs that can be uncomfortable for many MS patients and come with some side effects. The new oral drug called teriflunomide is showing some promise as a more convenient and comfortable treatment alternative for MS patients.

The Phase 3 clinical study for the drug teriflunomide involved 1,088 MS patients coming from multiple health-care centers from several countries. The participants in the said study were between the ages of 15 and 55 who had at least experienced one relapse of the disease in the previous year or at least two relapses in the previous two years. A relapse is considered as the appearance of a new symptom associated with the disease or a worsening of previous symptoms that has become stable for a certain period.

In the clinical trial, one third of the patients were given a placebo each day. One third of the participants received a 7-mg dose of teriflunomide daily while the other one third received a 14-mg dose of the said drug daily. The study lasted for a period of two years.

The study found out that there was a 31 percent decrease in relapses on patients who were taking the said drug- 31.2 percent for those who took the 7 mg dose and 31.5 percent for those who took the 14 mg dose.

The study also indicated that the drug has lengthened the period of time before a patient relapsed. There were also more patients who took the drug who remained free from relapses of the disease. The disease progression also decreased by almost 30 percent for those who took the 14 mg dose.

Additionally, MRI scans have shown a 69 percent reduction in the number of brain lesions caused by MS for those who took 14 mg of teriflunomide. The reduction was 48 percent for those who took the 7 mg dose.

Teriflunomide works by attaching itself to a certain enzyme known to be important in the synthesis of DNA. This action prevents rapidly dividing cells found in the immune system from attacking, thereby reducing the number of attacks that it can do to the central nervous system. The principal investigator for the study was Dr. Paul O’Connor, director of the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Sanofi, the maker of teriflunomide, funded the clinical trial. Further studies are being undertaken to try and confirm the results of Dr. O’Connor’s study and determine the long term effects and safety of the said drug.

Source: St. Michael’s Hospital (2011, October 7). New oral drug found to reduce relapses in multiple sclerosis patients. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 11, 2011, from

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