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Novartis MS Drug Shows Promising Results

Data from the extension of a Phase II study to 12 months confirm the significant effects of FTY720, a novel oral medication//, for the treatment of patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS).

The data, presented at the ECTRIMS/ACTRIMS meeting in Thessalonica, Greece, showed that both patient groups taking FTY720 (1.25 mg and 5 mg) who had experienced a reduction in their annualized relapse rate of more than 50% during the first six months of the study compared to placebo maintained this low relapse rate during the subsequent six-month extension.

In patients who switched from placebo to either the 1.25 mg or 5 mg dosing of FTY720 after six months, the annualized relapse rate was reduced by at least 70% during the second six-month study phase compared to the first six months on placebo.

More than 80% of patients who received FTY720 for up to 12 months were free from lesions showing active inflammation on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at month twelve irrespective of their FTY720 treatment dose (1.25 mg or 5 mg).

"We are excited by these full-year study results confirming the significant effect of oral FTY720 on reducing both clinical relapses and inflammatory disease activity that we first saw during the six-month placebo-controlled phase of the study," said chief investigator Professor Ludwig Kappos, MD, Department of Neurology at the University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland, "We hope that the magnitude of benefits shown in Phase II will be confirmed in the larger scale Phase III study program expected to be launched soon." Based on the positive Phase II study results, Novartis is in discussions with regulatory authorities about the FTY720 Phase III program, which is expected to be launched by the end of 2005.

Over two million people worldwide are estimated to suffer from multiple sclerosis, which is the leading cause of neurological disability in young adults. MS is the most common chronic, disabling di
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