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Prozac Reduces Disease Activity in MS Patients

Small study finds antidepressant cut inflammation in relapsing remitting illness

WEDNESDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- Prozac may help reduce disease activity in people with the relapsing remitting form of multiple sclerosis (MS), a new study suggests.

Forty patients with the disease were randomly selected to receive either 20 milligrams a day of fluoxetine (Prozac) or a placebo for 24 weeks. MRI brain scans were conducted every four weeks to monitor the patients for new areas of neurological inflammation, a hallmark of disease activity.

Of the 38 patients (19 in each group) who completed the study, those who took the placebo had more new areas of inflammation (average of more than five areas) than those who took the drug (average of just under two).

One in four scans from patients treated with fluoxetine showed new areas of inflammation, compared with four out of 10 scans from patients taking the placebo. During the last 16 weeks of treatment, 63 percent of patients in the fluoxetine group had no new areas of inflammation, compared with 26 percent of those in the placebo group.

The findings were published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

This was a small study, and larger studies are needed before any firm conclusions about the use of fluoxetine in patients with relapsing remitting MS can be made, the study authors noted.

However, the findings are "sufficiently encouraging to justify further studies with fluoxetine in patients with MS," they said, and added that higher doses and treatment combinations with other drugs that alter the immune response should be considered in future studies.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about multiple sclerosis.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: BMJ Specialist Journals, news release, May 1, 2008

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