"People respond differently to different therapies," he said. "The more treatments we have, the higher the likelihood that a person will find a treatment that works best for them. We're going to see a steady stream of options for people with MS, providing people with the choices they need."
The new oral therapies also help people regain some small sense of control by allowing them to more easily take their medications, said Dr. Ron Cohen, chief executive and founder of Acorda Therapeutics, the company that developed Ampyra.
"It's certainly a more convenient form of the type of therapy that's already been available as an injection," Cohen said. "What's not known right now is, of all the orals, the relative efficacy of these orals versus the best of the injectables. With the injectables, there's a pretty good sense of what to expect in terms of efficacy and safety. It will take several years to develop such a track record for oral medications."
With the approval of the new drugs, eyes are turning toward the future and the next potential advance in MS treatment. Both Cohen and LaRocca said that treatments that repair the neural damage caused by multiple sclerosis are the next frontier for researchers.
Multiple sclerosis is now believed to be an autoimmune disorder in which the body damages the nervous system by attacking myelin, the fatty substance that surrounds and protects nerve fibers, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
The drug Ampyra works by restoring the conductive power of nerves that have lost their myelin, Cohen said.
"Right now, there's nothing that can repair the damage once it's been done," he said. "If we had something that could restore the myelin, you could potentially dial back the damage done by the disease."
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society
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