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Experimental Pill May Ease Multiple Sclerosis Disability
Date:3/14/2012

se rate for those on the active drug was 0.30 compared to 0.39 for those on a placebo, a reduction in relapse of 23 percent for those on the medication. During the study, 63 percent of those on the drug remained relapse-free compared to 52 percent of those on placebo.

Just over 11 percent of those taking laquinimod had confirmed disability progression compared to 15.7 percent of those on placebo, the researchers found.

The drug was generally well-tolerated. The most significant side effects appeared to be urinary tract infections and a temporary abnormality in liver function tests.

This isn't the first pill developed for MS. The first was Gilenya, which was approved in 2010 for the treatment of relapsing-remitting MS. This drug is currently under increased scrutiny in the United States and Europe because there have been 11 unexpected deaths in people taking the drug. Several other oral medications are in development. One is called teriflunomide, and it's also for the treatment of relapsing-remitting MS; its manufacturer recently filed for approval in the United States and Europe. Before Gilenya was approved, MS medications had to be given by injection.

"This is meaningful because it's a more convenient way of taking medication. I don't think it will differ significantly in efficacy from other agents. The safety data looks good now, but many low-frequency side effects only become apparent [after a drug has been approved] in post-marketing trials," said Dr. Malcolm Gottesman, chief of the division of neurology, co-director of neuroscience and director of the Winthrop Comprehensive MS Care Center at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.

"Right now, it looks good. It looks like it works and is easy to take," Gottesman said, adding that it's not going to be a groundbreaking change in treatment.

Timothy Coetzee, chief research officer for the MS society, said laquinimod works differently than the other pills and looks as if it
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