Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system. Nerves in the brain and spinal cord are covered with a protective coating called myelin. MS symptoms are caused when myelin deteriorates and doesn’t send the proper signals to the brain.
There’s hope for a cure that will one day repair the central nervous system. Until a cure is found, treatments and therapies can offer help to people with MS. Scientists are constantly working to improve treatments to help with symptoms, flare-ups, and progression.
There are currently 13 FDA-approved medications used to slow the progression of MS, treat disease relapses, and manage symptoms. These medications are injectable, oral, or infused.
Three new drugs are also in the works:
- Ocrelizumab: This is an IV-infused drug designed to treat primary progressive MS (PPMS). If approved, it will be given twice per year. Studies are ongoing and are expected to continue until late 2017.
- Laquinimod: This is medication comes in tablet form. It’s being tested for relapse-remitting MS (RRMS). Scientists believe it works by stopping damaged immune cells from reaching the brain. Studies show potential benefits to RRMS patients during a short-term period. However, side effects include headache, diarrhea, back pain, nausea, and infection. Studies on laquinimod began in 2013 and are expected to continue through 2018.
- Anti-LINGO-1: This is an IV-infused drug that’s been shown to potentially repair myelin in people with optic neuritis. This condition occurs when the optic nerve is inflamed. It isn’t clear whether the drug actually repairs the damage, or if it just stops the symptoms. Studies on this drug are still ongoing.
Stem Cell Transplantation
Scientists have conducted studies in the United States and the United Kingdom on stem cell transplantation. The tests have been conducted on people with secondary progressive MS (SPMS) and RRMS.
The studies are ongoing, but the therapy is showing promise for people with RRMS. Many RRMS study participants have reported a reduction in symptoms. However, SPMS study participants are not showing an improvement in symptoms. Patients who have had RRMS for more than 10 years have also showed no change.
What the Future Holds
Scientists and pharmaceutical companies are continually trying to create better medications to help people with MS. New therapies are showing great promise. With recent advancements, it’s hopeful to believe there will one day be a cure.