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New Oral Drugs Hailed for Treating MS
Date:1/31/2011

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 31 (HealthDay News) -- For decades, research into treatments for multiple sclerosis has plodded forward, making slow but significant gains in improving the lives of people with the degenerative nerve disorder.

That steady but slow pace made the speed at which progress occurred in the past year nearly breathtaking, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approving a number of new breakthrough drugs for people with MS.

Nicholas LaRocca, vice president of health-care delivery and policy research for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, said that 2010 was "an unprecedented year for MS, both in terms of the many developments that are in the pipeline as well as drugs that have come to market."

The new medications broke new ground not only through the therapy they provide but also in the way they are administered. The drugs can be taken orally, a break from past MS treatments that had to be given by either injection or IV.

They include:

  • Gilenya (fingolimod), the first oral medication designed to reduce relapses and delay the progression of MS.
  • Ampyra (dalfampridine), the first drug approved to treat a specific symptom of MS -- in this case, improving people's ability to walk.
  • Nuedexta, a two-drug combination designed to treat people with MS who have lost emotional control because of a symptom known as pseudobulbar affect, a severe emotional consequence of the disorder that causes uncontrollable laughing or crying.

Other oral therapies are in the pipeline. One now under FDA review is cladribine, a drug aimed at reducing relapses that could further improve convenience for people with MS, LaRocca said.

"It is taken orally but in discrete blocks of time over the course of the year," he said. "It's a couple of very short courses of oral therapy, as opposed to taking it constantly."

LaRocca said that thes
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