A treatment for the most common type of multiple sclerosis (MS) could become available in the form of a pill, it has been revealed.
The pill, cladribine, which is already used to treat some forms of leukaemia, will be an alternative to the injections MS sufferers currently receive.
The chances of MS patients relapsing could be reduced by half if the new drug is taking a few times a year, a US trial found.
Unlike the MS injection, which can cause patients to bruise easily and develop anaemia and infections, the pill has few side-effects.
The results of the research are a ‘huge step forward’, an MS Society spokesman said.
An application to license the use of the treatment is expected imminently, but widespread access via the NHS is dependant on approval from NICE which will judge the cost effectiveness. However, availability of cladribine could be sped up as it is already used to treat other conditions.
Cladribine was used to treat ‘relapsing-remitting’ MS, suffered by 65% of patients, in the trial.
Those taking the pill were 55% less likely to suffer a relapse than those on the placebo pill and worsening disability was reduced by 30%.