WEDNESDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- A new pill can help prevent relapse in some people with multiple sclerosis (MS), new research indicates.
In two studies, the annualized relapse rate was cut nearly in half with twice-daily use of the new drug currently known as BG-12. One study also found that BG-12 could reduce the progression of disability, while the other study found no statistically significant difference between the drug and placebo for rates of disability.
"We found a robust reduction in the annualized relapse rate of 44 percent in the twice-daily group and 51 percent in the thrice-daily group," said Dr. Robert Fox, lead author of one of the studies and medical director at the Mellen Center for MS at the Cleveland Clinic, in Ohio.
Fox added that the drug was well tolerated in the clinical trial, and appears to be quite safe. "It's a pill they take twice a day at home, and there was no increased risk of opportunistic infections or cancer," he noted.
Results of the studies are published in the Sept. 20 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Both were funded by the drug's manufacturer, Biogen Idec.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that damages the outside of nerve fibers in the central nervous system, which includes the brain, spine and optic nerves, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS). Symptoms can include fatigue, numbness in the limbs, balance and coordination problems, bladder or bowel dysfunction, vision problems, pain and even paralysis.
Most people -- about 85 percent -- have a form of MS that's called relapsing-remitting, according to the NMSS. That means that people have periods where the disease is very active. At other times, the disease remits. During these periods of remission, there may be complete or partial recovery of function, and the disease doesn't progress during remission.
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