Multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms may be delayed by a new drug if given to the patients when they are in the early stages of the illness.
The research shows that, in tests, the drug glatiramer acetate delayed the onset of chronic MS and reduced the chance of patients getting a confirmed, long-term diagnosis of MS by almost half in three years. It also reduced the frequency of symptoms in patients with intermittent, or ‘relapsing-remitting’ MS, by 30%.
THe study stressed that the the drug is not a cure, but can only delay the onset of the illness.
For many patients, an initial burst of symptoms quickly fade away, in what is known as ‘clinically isolated syndrome’(CIS). CIS does not always lead to long-term MS, which only becomes confirmed if symptoms return.
At present, glatiramer acetate has only been recommended by NICE for confirmed MS sufferers.
The drug, which costs £6,650 to treat one patient for a year, was only approved for use by the NHS after its manufacturer agreed to pay some of the costs if it proved ineffective.