Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have co-authored a clinical trial which found that the drug ‘siponimod’ could reduce the progression of disability in multiple sclerosis (MS), a condition that affects the central nervous system.
MS causes nerves to lose their protective coating of myelin and is a life-long, progressive condition that can have symptoms such as problems with vision, balance and memory, as well as fatigue, stiffness and spasms.
In the trial, which involved 292 medical centres in 31 countries, 903 subjects were given siponimod, while another 424 people were given placebo.
On average, participants of the study took siponimod for a period of 18 months.
Participants had on average had MS for 17 years, and secondary progressive MS for four years.
The trial found that the risk of a patient’s disability getting worse was 21% lower for people given siponimod, compared to people given placebo.
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In around 26% of people who were given siponimod, the level of disability increased after three months, compared with 32% of people on placebo.
Only a quarter of patients saw their disability progress on the drug after three months, compared to a third of those given placebo.
Further research into the long term use of the drug is ongoing.
Queen Mary University Blizard Institute professor Gavin Giovannoni said: “This study is a landmark because it shifts the paradigm and shows that secondary progressive MS is modifiable.
“It gives hope to people with more advanced MS. We now have a treatment to slow down the inevitable worsening of disability that occurs in the secondary progressive MS phase of the disease.”
However, the drug had some side effects. More patients given the drug experienced adverse events such as a slower heart rate, high blood pressure, reduced white blood cell count, and increased numbers of convulsions compared to those given placebo.