Drug fights multiple sclerosis for six years

Results of a six-year study show that sustained use of the drug glatiramer acetate significantly reduces the relapse rate and delays disability in people with the relapsing-remitting form of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Of the 101 patients receiving daily injections of glatiramer acetate in the past six years, 77 have had three or fewer relapses, and 26 have not had any relapses. Study participants also experienced a steady decline in the relapse rate, so on average, they experienced one relapse every four to five years, compared with two medically documented relapses in the two years before taking the medication for a 72% reduction in the annual relapse rate.

"The findings suggest that not only is glatiramer acetate well-tolerated but that the longer a patient takes the drug, the better it works," says Kenneth Johnson, MD, professor and chairman of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and principal investigator of the multicenter trial.

"Over time, people with relapsing-remitting MS experience fewer relapses, even if they are not taking medication, but they go on to have increasing permanent disability. This study also showed that there was a beneficial effect of treatment with glatiramer acetate on neurological disability, which continued over six years when patients were regularly evaluated by their examining neurologists," he says.

[See: Johnson KP, Brooks BR, Ford CC, et al. Sustained clinical benefits of glatiramer acetate in relapsing multiple sclerosis patients observed for six years." Multiple Sclerosis 2000; 6:255-266.]