Skip to content

    Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Drug May Slow Down Multiple Sclerosis

    Progression of MS May Be Slowed by Drug Now Used by Transplant Patients
    By
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    Dec. 12, 2005 -- An immune system-suppressing drug may slow progression of multiple sclerosis, new research suggests.

    Using magnetic resonance imaging, researchers showed that new brain lesions that indicate multiple sclerosis (MS) progression were reduced by more than half in 12 of 14 patients treated with the drug Imuran.

    The drug is now used primarily to prevent rejection in transplant patients and in the treatment of patients with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders.

    Imuran has been studied by MS investigators for several decades. Previous studies have shown that Imuran can reduce relapses in patients with multiple sclerosis. However, the new research is the first to show that the drug can slow disease progression by decreasing the presence of new lesions.

    Study researchers say their findings are similar to other studies' results looking at the use of injectable interferon-beta and brain lesions in MS. But a spokesman for the National MS Society tells WebMD that larger studies are needed to prove this.

    "If these findings are confirmed then we would have a less expensive oral medication that is of comparable benefit to the current treatments," says John Richert, MD. "These data show that it is worthwhile to invest the resources to try and prove that this drug alters disease progression."

    About MS

    It is not clear what causes MS, but most experts now believe it to be an autoimmune disease - one in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the person's own tissue rather than foreign invaders.

    It is believed that inflammation drives the destruction of the protective coating, known as myelin, surrounding the nerves in key areas of the brain and spinal cord. This destruction leaves the nerves unable to send electrical signals. This results in problems such as muscle movement, coordination, balance, vision, memory, and thinking.

    In its later stages MS can leave patients paralyzed, but it is not usually fatal.

    Reducing Brain Lesions

    The patients in the new study had the most common form of the disease, known as relapsing-remitting MS. During relapses, new symptoms can appear and old ones often resurface or worsen.

    Today on WebMD

    nerve damage
    Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
    woman applying lotion
    Ideas on how to boost your mood and self-esteem.
     
    woman pondering
    Get personalized treatment options.
    man with hand over eye
    Be on the lookout for these symptoms.
     
    brain scan
    ARTICLE
    worried woman
    ARTICLE
     
    neural fiber
    ARTICLE
    white blood cells
    VIDEO
     
    sunlight in hands
    ARTICLE
    marijuana plant
    ARTICLE
     
    muscle spasm
    ARTICLE
    Neuron
    ARTICLE