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Drug Improves Mobility in Some MS Patients

Fampridine may boost walking ability, but some risks tied to dose strength, study says

FRIDAY, Feb. 27 (HealthDay News) -- The drug fampridine improves walking ability in some people with multiple sclerosis.

In a phase III study that included 301 patients, aged 18 to 70, the participants were randomly assigned to receive either 10 milligrams of fampridine or a placebo twice a day for 14 weeks. The patients' walking speed was assessed after two weeks, six weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks.

The number of timed walk responders -- those who achieved a faster walking speed in at least three of the four assessments while on treatment compared to when they weren't on treatment -- was 78 out of 224 (35 percent) in the fampridine group and six out of 72 (8 percent) in the placebo group. The patients in the fampridine group also showed greater improvement in leg strength.

Eleven patients (5 percent) in the fampridine group had to withdraw from the study due to adverse events, but only two serious adverse events (focal seizure and severe anxiety) were considered to be connected with the drug, according to Andrew Goodman, of the University of Rochester Medical Center, and colleagues. But they added that the risk of seizure noted in previous studies seems to increase in a dose-dependent way with fampridine.

"Treatment with fampridine produces clinically meaningful improvement in walking ability in some people with multiple sclerosis, irrespective of disease course type or concomitant treatment with immunomodulators," the researchers concluded.

The study was published in this week's edition of The Lancet.

MS patients suffer a progressive decline in mobility, but there are few treatment options available to complement physiotherapy. While it has been suggested that fampridine may improve visual function, strength, walking ability, fatigue and endurance in MS patients, there are questions about the drug's efficacy and safety.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about multiple sclerosis.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, Feb. 27, 2009

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