April 13, 2009

Several New MS Drugs Could Soon Be On the Market

Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) may soon have more treatment options for their disease.

A new report in Chemical & Engineering News says years of scientific research on MS means 11 potential new drugs are now in the final stages of clinical trials and may soon be on pharmacy shelves. Those drugs could double the number of medications available to treat MS over the next several years.

Many of the new drugs are pills rather than injections. This makes it easier for patients to take the medication for a long period of time. Most of the drugs ease the immune system damage to myelin or protect already-damaged nerves.

Researchers still do not know whether these new drugs are safer or more effective than current treatments for MS. They note the challenge has been to find the delicate balance between making the immune system less aggressive and not hurting it so much that a patient is more vulnerable to getting sick.

None of the new drugs is a cure, but Randall T. Schapiro, director of the Schapiro Center for Multiple Sclerosis, Minneapolis, was quoted as saying, "We have every reason to be excited about new medications, [but] just because it's oral doesn't mean that it's a smooth-acting, easy-to-take medication." He adds, all of the new drugs are potent, and clinical trials may show that the risks are not worth the benefits.

About 400,000 people in the United States have MS. 

SOURCE: Chemical & Engineering News, published online April 6, 2009