Allergy Drug May Repair Multiple Sclerosis Nerve Damage
An existing allergy drug may help increase nerve speed in multiple sclerosis patients, according to results from a phase II clinical trial published in The Lancet. Researchers say that a medication derived from or including the antihistamine medication, clemastine fumarate, might be able to help rebuild myelin after it's been damaged. Worldwide, MS affects more than 2.3 million people. The autoimmune condition attacks myelin, the wax-like coating around the nerves.
The studies around clemastine fumarate were undertaken by Prof. Jonah R. Chan and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco. "People thought we were absolutely crazy to launch this trial," said Chan, quoted in Medical News Today, "because they thought that only in newly diagnosed cases could a drug like this be effective. Intuitively, if myelin damage is new, the chance of repair is strong. In the patients in our trial the disease had gone on for years, but we still saw strong evidence of repair." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved clemastine fumarate 40 years ago, in 1977, and it's been available over the counter for more than 20 years.
"To the best of our knowledge," said UCSF principal investigator Ari Green, MD, also quoted in MNT, "this is the first time a therapy has been able to reverse deficits caused by MS. It's not a cure, but it's a first step toward restoring brain function to the millions who are affected by this chronic, debilitating disease."