A new drug tested at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation has shown promising results in treating multiple sclerosis patients.
The drug’s manufacturer intends to seek marketing approval for the new treatment, which will be commercially known as Lemtrada, from the US Food and Drug Administration early next year.
OMRF’s Multiple Sclerosis Center of Excellence was one of the national phase III clinical trial sites for the medication, which aims to reduce the frequency of MS relapses, lower the number of brain lesions and slow or stop the progression of the disease. OMRF physicians treated patients suffering from MS with the experimental medication and compared the results to standard courses of treatment.
“The results we saw were positive, including a 49 percent improvement over patients treated with currently available MS drug therapy,” said Gabriel Pardo, MD, Director of OMRF’s Multiple Sclerosis Center of Excellence. The new medication was tested in 840 MS patients nationwide, and it significantly reduced disease relapse and prevented a worsening of MS disability progression.
The clinical trials, said Pardo, are part of a larger vision for MS care and research at OMRF. “When we opened the Multiple Sclerosis Center of Excellence at OMRF earlier this year, our goal was to marry comprehensive care for MS patients with clinical trials and research into the roots of the disease. Today, we are well on track to meeting this goal. We’re providing comprehensive care to more than 2,000 MS patients, participating in clinical trials of seven new medications for MS, and conducting translational research that could birth new generations of diagnostics and medications.”
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease of the brain and spinal cord caused by inflammation and degeneration. Inflammation causes damage to myelin, the protective covering that surrounds nerve cells. When this covering is damaged, nerve impulses are slowed and sometimes blocked all together. Degeneration can cause nerve cells to die prematurely. This combination of effects causes a variety of symptoms, including problems with vision, tremors, paralysis, painful spasms, imbalance, and cognitive changes.
“The aim of most MS medications is to reduce the risk of the disease doing more damage to the nerve cells and, with each new generation of drugs, we’re seeing results,” Pardo said. While stopping the disease at any stage is welcome, the best results come when multiple sclerosis is diagnosed early and therapies to combat the progression begin immediately, he said.
“MS has the potential for a significantly negative impact on patients’ lives,” he said. “People are forced to give up careers, hobbies and the normal day-to-day functionality most of us take for granted.”
With early diagnosis and treatment, an MS patient could have fewer relapses and might avoid having to use a cane, walker or wheelchair indefinitely.
“Eighteen years ago, MS patients had nothing. There were no specific treatments for the disease,” Pardo said. “The speed at which medical science has developed and improved on medications for MS is astounding, and it gives me great hope.”