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Fingolimod Reduces Multiple Sclerosis Activity, Lesions

Treatment associated with some adverse side effects, long-term studies are needed

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- The oral immunomodulating agent fingolimod reduces lesions and disease activity associated with relapsing multiple sclerosis, according to a report in the Sept. 14 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Ludwig Kappos, M.D., of University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland, and colleagues randomly assigned 281 patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis to receive 1.25 or 5 mg fingolimod, or placebo, once daily and followed them for six months to measure disease activity and the number of gadolinium-enhanced lesions detected by magnetic resonance imaging.

Patients treated with fingolimod had fewer lesions (1-3 lesions vs. 5 lesions) and a lower relapse rate (0.35-0.36 vs. 0.77) compared to the placebo group, the authors found. In an extended double-blind study, both measures remained low in fingolimod-treated patients and those initially receiving placebo showed improvement after switching to the drug.

Not entirely unexpected, treatment was associated with some adverse side effects including lower heart rate, higher arterial pressure, and airway obstruction, according to Steffen Massberg, M.D., Ph.D., and Ulrich von Andrian, M.D., Ph.D., from Harvard Medical School in Boston. "The results of the current proof-of-concept study by Kappos et al. are certainly promising and should provide a strong incentive for long-term follow-up trials on a large scale," they wrote in an editorial.

The study was supported by Novartis Pharma, Basel, Switzerland, and some of the authors are employees of the company.

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