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New trial offers hope in MS fight

February 10, 2021

Over the last three decades, considerable progress has been made in alleviating symptoms of those affected by relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS).

Previously, those impacted by the disease faced a raft of debilitating effects including numb legs and blurred eyesight as their immune system mistakenly attacked the protective coating around the nerves in their brain and spinal cord.

In recent years over a dozen disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) have been developed that not only reduce the frequency but also the severity of these immune attacks. Yet, despite these welcome breakthroughs, tens of thousands of people with primary progressive MS still have no treatment options available to them.

At the heart of this imbalance has been the way many MS clinical trials have been conducted.

By using walking ability as a measure to determine drug efficacy, those with impaired lower limb function have been unable to participate and in turn, with no evidence for the effectiveness of DMTs in this population, neurologists have been unable to prescribe the medication essential to preventing the potential decline in their ability to use their arms and hands.

However, this could be about to change dramatically following the recent announcement that the first UK-based MS clinical trial to focus solely on those who are unable to walk is to start recruiting immediately.

Funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Medical Research Council (MRC) in association with the MS Society, the ChariotMS trial will test the effectiveness of Cladribine, a drug used for treating cancer, in slowing the progress of advanced MS.

If successful, the study, which has no upper age limit, could well see the first MS drug that protects upper limb function being successfully licensed and being brought to market.

Meanwhile, it has just been announced that Scottish patients will be the first in the UK to benefit from a new drug, Ozanimod, to treat adults with relapsing-remitting MS following its approval by the Scottish Medicines Consortium.

Jonathan Walmsley
T: 0203 143 2195

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