March 3, 2009

Drug Holds Promise for MS Patients

Multiple sclerosis patients may benefit from the drug fampridine.

In a new study conducted in centers in the U.S. and Canada, those who received the drug were able to walk faster on standard tests than those who received a placebo for comparison purposes. Leg strength improved more significantly in people taking the active drug as well.

The findings held true across a range of MS disease course types.

"Treatment with fampridine produces clinically meaningful improvement in walking ability in some people with multiple sclerosis, irrespective of disease course type or concomitant treatment with immunomodulators," conclude the authors.

Five percent of those in the fampridine group withdrew from the study due to adverse effects, however. Two serious adverse events, involving a focal seizure and severe anxiety, were seen in the active drug group.

While noting the drug shows promise for treating MS patients, researchers writing in an accompanying Comment suggest caution before prescribing it to MS patients in the general population. Alan Thompson from University College London, UK, and Chris Polman from the VU Medical Centre in Amsterdam, write, "Better understanding of the treatment profile, in terms of the full functional treatment effect and identification of those most likely to respond, is needed to allow for effective implementation in treatment regimens for multiple sclerosis."

The research was conducted among about 300 patients who received either fampridine or placebo over a 14 week period.

SOURCE: The Lancet, published online February 26, 2009


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