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New MS Drug Aids Mobility in Clinical Trials

By Elaine Moore on 2/27/2009

An article from the Feb 26 issue of The Lancet reports that the experimental drug fampridine (4-aminopyridine) by Accorda improves walking ability in some individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) in multi-center phase 3 trials.

Researchers suggest that fampridine helps restore nervous system function in a subset of MS patients by improving the transmission of signals in the central nervous system of some MS patients by blocking potassium ion channels. These channels serve as gates on the surface of cells and regulate the normal electrical activity. In lab tests involving nerve fibers with myelin damaged in a manner similar to that of MS, scientists found that blocking these channels results in a recovery of signal conduction.

In the latest fampridine trial researchers evaluated gait and walking speed and found that 34.8% of those receiving the drug experienced an improvement (an average of about 25% increase) in the speed they could walk 25 feet compared to only 8.3% in the placebo group.

Participants in the trial were allowed to continue to take most other medications for MS and researchers did not observe any negative interactions. However, a total of eleven patients (4.8%) in the fampridine-treated group discontinued the study due to side effects possibly related to treatment.

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