A ‘landmark’ drug to treat multiple sclerosis has undergone successful trials showing its ability to slow damage to the brain. The medication is the first ever treatment for people with a certain form of the MS – primary progressive. Ocrelizumab reported positive results in the treatment of the particularly aggressive form of the disease.
It was found that only 33 per cent of patients taking the drug deteriorated over time, compared to 39 per cent taking a placebo.
The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, involved testing on more than 700 patients across Europe and the US.
Two further trials also showed the drug’s ability to treat relapsing MS, characterised by distinct attacks which come and go.
The drug, taken as an intravenous drug, has been accepted for review for use by the European Medicines Agency and the US Food and Drug Administration.
Writing in the journal, Dr Peter Calabresi, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said: ‘This is the first drug to show a significant effect in slowing disability progression in a phase three trial in primary progressive multiple sclerosis, and therefore the trial represents a landmark study in the field.’
Dr Aisling McMahon, head of clinical trials at the MS Society, said: ‘This is really big news for people with the primary progressive form of multiple sclerosis. ‘It’s the first time any treatment has shown the potential to reduce disability progression for this type of MS, which offers a lot of hope for the future. ‘MS can be challenging and unpredictable and the 15,000 people in the UK living with primary progressive MS currently have no treatments available to slow the worsening of their condition.’
This is really big news for people with the primary progressive form of multiple sclerosis.
MS is the most common disabling neurological condition, with 50 people in Britain diagnosed each week, usually in their 20s or 30s.
The condition, which affects twice as many women as men, causes loss of mobility, sight problems, tiredness and excruciating pain.
The disease either become progressively worse with age – or strikes in brutal, periodic relapses – with many people left relying on wheelchairs.
The condition is caused when the body’s immune system malfunctions, and instead of warding off diseases turns instead to attack the body’s own nerves.
Certain immune cells, called B-cells, attack myelin, the protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres.
The ocrelizumab treatment slows down this process by stopping the B-cells from attacking the myelin.