WESTPORT, Feb 29 (Reuters Health) - Glatiramer acetate, the most recently approved drug in the US for treatment of multiple sclerosis, appears to slow progressive brain cell loss in patients with the relapsing-remitting type of MS.
Dr. Robert I. Grossman, of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues randomly assigned 27 patients at a single center to self-inject 20 mg/day subcutaneous glatiramer acetate (Copaxone, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd., Petah Tiqva, Israel) or placebo for 2 years.
On MRI imaging, the mean volume of T1-enhanced lesions was significantly less in patients treated with the drug than in those who were given placebo, Dr. Grossman's team reports. In addition, "the placebo-treated patients exhibited a nearly threefold greater annual decline in brain volume than glatiramer acetate-treated patients," the authors write.
"This is clearly a positive effect with respect to the use of this drug in MS," Dr. Grossman told Reuters Health. "It appears that the drug retards the development of brain parenchymal loss in patients with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis."
Results of previous studies suggest that glatiramer acetate at least partially blocks the demyelinating cascade in MS. The researchers say that the current results, reported in the February 22nd issue of Neurology, confirm that the drug preserves brain parenchyma, another important measure of the drug's efficacy.
According to Dr. Grossman, the researchers hope to extend these findings by using a spectroscopic approach that they described earlier this year in Neurology.