More MS news articles for Oct 2001

Drug trial for worst form of MS

Study into untreatable neurological condition

Date: 2001-10-29 16:32:21
By Steve Ford

A trial involving three UK hospitals may lead to the first approved treatment for primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) – the most potent form of the disease.

Copaxone® (glatiramer acetate) has been approved in the UK since last December as a treatment for relapsing MS, which is less severe because it comes and goes. The drug is used as an alternative to beta interferon drugs, although neither drug is available on the NHS.

Copaxone, based on three natural amino acids, is now undergoing international trials for treating the primary form, which causes continuous deteriorating disability and affects about 15 per cent of people with MS.

The trial, involving 900 patients with primary progressive MS in the UK, US and France, is expected to yield results in three year’s time. The UK centres taking part are London’s Institute of Neurology, Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham and the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.

MS Research Trust Chief Executive Christine Jones, said, “We welcome any new study into treatments for people with MS and we look forward to the final results with eager anticipation. However, unless NICE [the National Institute for Clinical Excellence] recommends its availability on the NHS, this will be yet another treatment denied to people with MS.”

The institute has been strongly criticised by charities for delaying its appraisal of glatiramer acetate and beta interferon. NICE announced last December that it was to delay its decision on whether either drug should be prescribed by the health service, while it carried out more research into the drugs’ cost effectiveness.

A final appraisal for beta interferon is expected later this week.

Copaxone is approved for relapsing MS in 22 countries and was first discovered by Israeli scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science. At present, the drug is only administered as an injection, but Teva Pharmaceuticals is testing an oral formulation of glatiramer acetate on 1,500 patients in a phase III study.

© Health Media Ltd 2001