CNS Drugs 2002;16(12):825-50
Simpson D, Noble S, Perry C.
Adis International Limited, Auckland, New Zealand.
Glatiramer acetate is a synthetic copolymer composed of a random mixture of four amino acids that modifies the immune response that results in the CNS inflammation, demyelination and axonal loss characteristic of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).
In three randomised, double-blind trials in patients with RRMS, subcutaneous glatiramer acetate 20 mg/day was significantly more effective than placebo for the primary outcome measure of each trial (mean relapse rate, proportion of relapse-free patients and number of gadolinium-enhancing lesions on magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] scans).
The mean relapse rate was significantly reduced at endpoint (approximately one-third less) in the two larger trials (the US pivotal trial [primary endpoint] and the European/Canadian study [tertiary endpoint]) in patients receiving glatiramer acetate compared with those receiving placebo.
The rate was 78% less for glatiramer acetate than placebo patients in the pilot trial that investigated a slightly different patient population.
Glatiramer acetate significantly decreased disease activity and burden of disease, as assessed in the European/Canadian study using a range of MRI measures.
Patients with RRMS treated with glatiramer acetate in the US trial were significantly more likely to experience improved disability (whereas placebo recipients were more likely to experience worsening disability) and their overall disability status was significantly improved compared with placebo recipients.
Data from the active-treatment extension of the US trial suggest that glatiramer acetate has sustained clinical benefits up to 8 years.
Glatiramer acetate was generally well tolerated; the most commonly reported treatment-related adverse events were localised injection-site reactions and transient post-injection systemic reactions.
Both reactions were generally mild and self limiting but were responsible for the majority of withdrawals from treatment (up to 6.5 and 3.5%, respectively).
Glatiramer acetate is not associated with the influenza-like syndrome or neutralising antibodies that are reported in patients treated with interferon-beta for RRMS.
The cost effectiveness of glatiramer acetate has yet to be definitively determined as assessment of available data is confounded by very different models, data sources and assumptions.
Glatiramer acetate has shown efficacy in well controlled clinical trials in patients with RRMS; it reduces relapse rate and decreases MRI-assessed disease activity and burden.
It is generally well tolerated and is not associated with the influenza-like symptoms and formation of neutralising antibodies seen with the interferons-beta.
Based on available data and current management guidelines, glatiramer acetate is a valuable first-line treatment option for patients with RRMS.