More MS news articles for October 2000

Inhalation Interferon Therapy for MS

Is there any information about inhalation interferon therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS)?
David Slotoroff, MD

from Rohit Bakshi, MD, 10/03/00

Effective immunotherapies, including interferon beta-1a,[1] interferon beta-1b,[2] and glatiramer acetate,[3] are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of relapsing-remitting MS in adults. These medications must be injected, either by intramuscular or subcutaneous routes, and can usually be self-administered by the patient, but side effects and convenience issues may reduce patient compliance and tolerability.

In February of 1999, Biogen, the biotechnology company that developed and marketed the currently available intramuscular form of interferon beta-1a, announced a partnership with Inhale Therapeutic Systems to develop a novel inhalation form of the drug. Inhale Therapeutics is also developing an inhaled form of insulin, in partnership with another pharmaceutical company. The inhaled form of interferon beta-1a would consist of a dry powder formulation with a portable inhalation delivery device. The drug is combined with a high molecular weight sugar excipient and spray dried using a proprietary method called "glass stabilization." The resulting particles are small enough to allow delivery into the lungs. The device is purely mechanical and requires no power source.

According to a source at Biogen, the development of the phase 1 trial of inhaled interferon beta-1a started in April 2000 and is ongoing. The company is not releasing any further information about the product at this time. Oral forms of these immunotherapies are also in the developmental and testing stages. Our center is involved in multicenter clinical trials of oral interferon beta-1a and oral glatiramer acetate for relapsing-remitting MS. Thus, it is likely that, in the next few years, MS patients will not have to rely on intramuscular or subcutaneous injections for effective immunotherapies to prevent relapses and the accumulation of disability.


  1. Jacobs LD, Cookfair DL, Rudick RA, et al. Intramuscular interferon beta-1a for disease progression in relapsing multiple sclerosis. Ann Neurol. 1996;39:285-294.
  2. Paty DW, Li DKB, UBC MS/MRI Study Group, IFNB Multiple Sclerosis Study Group. Interferon beta-1b is effective in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Neurology. 1993;43:662-667.
  3. Johnson KP, Brooks BR, Cohen JA, et al. Copolymer 1 reduces relapse rate and improves disability in relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis -- results of a Phase III multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Neurology. 1995;45:1268-1276.