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Experimental Drug Fights Multiple Sclerosis Activity
Date:6/20/2008

It led to a reduction of lesions seen on MRIs with limited side effects, study found

FRIDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- One of the first pills to treat the "relapse-remitting" form of multiple sclerosis has been shown to help fight the disease with few side effects.

Although the drug, laquinimod, is still experimental, having a pill available would make therapy much more convenient for many patients.

"By and large, this doesn't look as strong as the strongest injectable drugs like Tysabri... but, in general, I believe that patients and companies feel that the advantage of having an oral drug makes these attractive additions to our therapeutic armamentarium," said Dr. John Richert, executive vice president for research and clinical programs at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

"Patients are more likely to stay on an oral drug. We'll need to see what comes out of Phase 3 trials [the current trial was a Phase 2 study]. At this point, it's encouraging, and certainly patients are thirsting for oral options," Richert added.

The study, funded by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, is published in the June 21 issue of The Lancet. Earlier results from the same trial were presented this spring at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

Multiple sclerosis affects the central nervous system and is thought to be an autoimmune disease. It primarily strikes "white matter" -- the tissues in the brain and the other parts of the nervous system that transmit messages between "gray matter," where nerve bodies are found. Symptoms range from the mild (numbness in the limb) to severe, including paralysis and loss of vision. There are four different "courses" of the disease, the most common being relapse-remitting MS, in which flare-ups alternate with partial or complete remissions.

Several treatments are available for MS; all are injectable.

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