More MS news articles for Sep 2001

Multiple sclerosis drug Antegren shows promise in trial

Monday September 10, 5:43 pm Eastern Time

NEW YORK, Sept 10 (Reuters) - An experimental multiple sclerosis drug showed promise in a mid-stage clinical trial according to a director of Elan Corp., an Irish biotechnology company that's developing the drug with Biogen Inc. of the U.S.

"We're very pleased with the results," said John Groom, director and former chief executive of Elan (NYSE:ELN - news). "The pharmacological theory behind the drug, that it would block white cell traffic and halt new lesions, appears to be supported."

Full results of the six-month, Phase II trial will be presented at the Congress of the European Committee for the Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis this Saturday in Dublin. Elan and Biogen are optimistic the drug, Antegren, could become a blockbuster.

"The results are sufficiently encouraging for us to face the real test, which is to do a Phase III study," Groom said.

Biogen executives were not available for comment.

The latest trial involved three groups of 70 people. One group was given a placebo; another was given a single dose of Antegren; and the third group was given a double dose.

The results showed no significant difference in efficacy between patients taking a single dose and those taking twice that amount, Groom said.

Multiple Sclerosis affects about 400,000 people in the U.S. It is a disorder in which the nerves of the eye, brain and spinal cord lose patches of the protective sheath which allows electrical impulses to be conducted along nerve fiber speedily and accurately. It can lead to blurred vision, numbness and jerkiness of the limbs.

Elan and Biogen also have hopes for Antegren as a treatment for Crohn's disease. In Phase II trials, about half the patients treated with the drug experienced a remission of symptoms from the gastrointestinal disease.

"The mechanism of action of the drug is exactly the same in multiple sclerosis as in Crohn's disease," said the Crohn's study's lead investigator, Paul Rutgeerts, professor medicine at the Universitaire Ziekenhuizen Leuven in Belgium. "It eliminates inflammatory cells from reaching certain organs - in the case of multiple sclerosis, the brain."

Antegren is a humanized monoclonal antibody, one of the first of a new class of potential drugs designed to block immune cells from adhering to blood vessel walls and migrating into tissue. The drug may have the potential to treat a range of inflammatory diseases.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited