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Alemtuzumab offers hope to multiple sclerosis patients

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A drug used to treat leukaemia slows the progression of multiple sclerosis, according to a study.

A three-year clinical trial 334 patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis were treated with either alemtuzumab or interferon-beta.

In the alemtuzumab group, the number of attacks of the disease was reduced by 74% compared with interferon therapy.

The risk of accumulation of sustained disability was reduced by 71% in the alemtuzumab group.

Furthermore the alemtuzumab patients showed an increase of brain volume between months 12 and 36 of 0.9%, compared with a reduction of 0.2% among patients receiving interferon.

However there was an association of severe adverse events in the alemtuzumab group, including two deaths from cancer, prompting researchers to recommend the drug should only be used in the most serious MS cases.

New England Journal of Medicine (2008) 359: 1786-1801
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