5 Promising New Treatments for MS
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease affecting your nervous system. Your nerves are coated in a protective covering called myelin. People with MS experience deterioration of the myelin. Your nerves may function abnormally when the myelin is damaged. The result is a number of varied and unpredictable symptoms, including:
- pain, tingling, or burning throughout your body
- vision problems
- mobility difficulties
- slurred speech
- impaired memory and cognitive function
New treatments for MS emerge from years of research and dedication. Drug regimens and behavioral therapy allow people with MS to lead a healthier, more productive life.
Purpose of Treatments
There is no cure for MS as of now. However, there are many treatment options that can help manage the course and symptoms of the chronic disease. Treatment does the following:
- slows the progression of MS
- minimizes symptoms during exacerbations or flares
- improves physical and mental function
Treatment in the form of support groups or talk therapy can also provide emotional support during the trying times of living with a chronic illness.
Changing the course of the disease is a primary goal of multiple sclerosis treatment. Drugs that do this are called disease-modifying medications. In 2012, an oral drug called teriflunomide (Aubagio) was approved for use in MS patients.
A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people with relapsing MS showed lower disease progression rates and fewer annual relapses when taking teriflunomide once daily than on a placebo. Those given 14 mg of the drug fared better than participants in the 7 mg group. The teriflunomide study was a landmark of sorts because teriflunomide was only the second oral disease-modifying medication approved as an MS treatment.
A third oral disease-modifying drug became available to MS patients in the spring of 2013. Dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera), formerly known as BG-12, stops the immune system from attacking itself to destroy myelin. The medication, available in capsule form, may also have a protective effect on the body, similar to antioxidants. It is designed for patients who have relapsing-remitting MS, a form of the disease in which you typically go into remission for a period of time before exhibiting an exacerbation of symptoms. People with this type of the disease can benefit from twice-daily doses of the drug.
Multiple sclerosis-induced myelin destruction affects the way your nerves send and receive signals, which in turn can affect movement and mobility. Potassium channels are like pores on the surface of nerve fibers. Blocking the channels can improve the nerve conduction of affected nerves.
Fampridine, also called dalfampridine, is a potassium channel blocker. Studies reported in The Lancet state that fampridine helps increase walking speed in people with MS. The original study, which tested walking speed for a 25-foot walk, did not show fampridine to be beneficial. However, post-study analysis brought to light that MS patients did show increased walking speed during a six-minute test when talking 10 mg of the medication daily.
Modified Story Memory Technique
MS affects not just your physical body but cognitive function as well. It can negatively affect memory, concentration, and executive functions, such as organization and planning. Researchers from the Kessler Foundation Research Center found that a modified story memory technique (mSMT) can be an effective rehabilitation for people who experience the cognitive effects of MS. This promising new treatment method helps patients retain newer memories. It also helps them call up older information using a story-based association between imagery and context. Story memory technique might help you remember items on a shopping list, for example. In magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, the learning and memory areas of the brain showed more activation after mSMT sessions.
Myelin is irreversibly damaged in people who have MS. An exciting new study involving myelin peptides could show promise in slowing the progression of MS. According to the July 2013 issue of JAMA Neurology, people who received a transdermal infusion of myelin peptides through skin patches had fewer lesions and relapses. Participants received treatment for one year.
The Future of MS Treatments
The symptoms of MS and the best treatments for the disease vary from person to person. What works for one patient doesn’t necessarily work for another. It’s clear that research and trial and error is the key to finding a cure. The medical community continues to learn more about the disease and how to best treat it.
- Ampyra Post-Marketing Study Results Announced - Low dose does not improve walking: Approved dose misses primary endpoint but shows benefit in several secondary endpoints. (2012, August 14). National MS Society. Retrieved July 16, 2013, from http://www.nationalmssociety.org/news/news-detail/index.aspx?nid=6759
- Chiaravalloti, N.D. et al. (2012, July). Increased cerebral activation after behavioral treatment for memory deficits in MS. Journal of Neurology, 259(7), 1337-1346. Retrieved July 16, 2013, from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00415-011-6353-x
- Dalfampridine. (2013). National MS Society. Retrieved July 16, 2013, from http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/what-we-know-about-ms/treatments/medications/dalfampridine/index.aspx
- FDA Approves Oral Teriflunomide – Brand Name Aubagio® – as Disease-Modifying Therapy for Relapsing MS. (2013, April 3). National MS Society. Retrieved July 16, 2013, from http://www.nationalmssociety.org/news/news-detail/index.aspx?nid=6864
- FDA Approves Twice a Day Capsules Called Tecfidera™ (formerly called BG-12) for Relapsing MS. (2013, March 27). National MS Society. Retrieved July 16, 2013, from http://www.nationalmssociety.org/news/news-detail/index.aspx?nid=7539
- Fox, R.J. et al. (2012, September 20). Placebo-Controlled Phase 3 Study of Oral BG-12 or Glatiramer in Multiple Sclerosis. The New England Journal of Medicine, 367, 1087-1097. Retrieved July 16, 2013, from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1206328
- Goodman, A.D. et al. (2009, February 28). Sustained-release oral fampridine in multiple sclerosis: a randomised, double-blind, controlled trial. The Lancet, 373(9665), 732-738. Retrieved July 16, 2013, from http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)60442-6/fulltext
- NINDS Multiple Sclerosis Information Page. (2013, July 5). National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Retrieved July 16, 2013, from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/multiple_sclerosis/multiple_sclerosis.htm
- O’Connor, P. et al. (2011, October 6). Randomized Trial of Oral Teriflunomide for Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis. The New England Journal of Medicine, 365, 1293-1303. Retrieved July 16, 2013, from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1014656
- Rehabilitation Technique Improves Memory and Increases Brain Activity in People with MS. (2012, February 14). National MS Society. Retrieved July 16, 2013, from http://www.nationalmssociety.org/news/news-detail/index.aspx?nid=5962
- Treatments. (2013). National MS Society. Retrieved July 16, 2013, from http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/what-we-know-about-ms/treatments/index.aspx
- Walczak, A. et al. (2013, July 1). Transdermal Application of Myelin Peptides in Multiple Sclerosis Treatment. JAMA Neurology. Retrieved July 16, 2013, from http://archneur.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1704351