Drug for Progressive MS Shows Promise in Clinical Trials

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Cleveland Clinic researchers led phase 2 clinical trials for an oral medication that slowed brain shrinkage in people with progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) by 48 percent. The drug, ibudilast, was evaluated in the two-year SPRINT-MS study, which included 255 patients at many sites around the country.

In those with progressive MS, symptoms worsen over time, and the likelihood of disability is higher than in other types of MS. While there are more than a dozen medications for relapsing-remitting MS, none has proven very effective in slowing disability associated with progressive MS.

"These findings are significant for patients with progressive MS," stated Robert Fox, M.D., the study's principal investigator and vice-chair for research in Cleveland Clinic's Neurological Institute. "Our hope is that the benefit of ibudilast in slowing brain shrinkage will also translate to decreased progression of associated physical disabilities in a future phase 3 trial." HealthCentral contributor Trevis Gleason was the NIH patient advocate for the trial and is a co-author of the report on the trial in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Ibudilast was approved in Japan in 1989 to treat asthma and stroke, and it is currently also being studied in the U.S. as a possible therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and drug addiction.

"These results are a promising step toward a potential new therapy for people living with progressive forms of MS, for whom there are few treatment options," stated Bruce Bebo, Ph.D., Executive Vice President, Research, National MS Society, in a press release.

Sourced from: New England Journal of Medicine