People with multiple sclerosis (MS) could soon benefit from tablets to treat the condition, it has been announced.
The news that pills could be available within two years follows a successful trial period for two medicines.
Both medicines competing to be the first world’s first oral treatment for multiple sclerosis dampen the immune response which causes the related nerve damage.
Pharmaceutical company Novartis developed fingolimod - a once-a-day treatment. German-based drug company Merck also introduced the longer lasting cladribine to the table. Patients using cladribine would take between 20 and 40 tablets over a year.
The New England Journal of Medicine published the results from clinical trials of both drugs, with each medicine showing strong signs of holding back the disease’s progression and reducing the chance of relapsing.
Between 55% and 58% of patients taking cladribine were less likely to suffer a relapse than those given a placebo pill.
Fingolimod enjoyed similar success, with a relapse reduction rate of 54% to 60% found among patients using the drug compared to those taking the placebo pill.
When it came to stopping the disease progressing, the drugs drew level, with both reducing chances by a third with no major side effects.
Although the drugs will be available by 2011, it is not yet known if the NHS will regard them as cost-effective enough to be made available on prescription.