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    New Oral MS Drugs May Be on the Horizon

    Studies Show Cladribine and Fingolimod Are Effective Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis

    Fingolimod for MS continued...

    ''The two drugs reduced the relapse rate by 38% to 52%," Cohen tells WebMD. That translates, he says, to a relapse roughly every five or six years instead of every three to four.

    While 69% of those treated with interferon beta-1a were relapse-free at a year, nearly 80% of those treated with the higher fingolimod dose were relapse-free and 82.6% of those treated with the lower dose. Those differences between fingolimod doses were small, Cohen says.

    In another fingolimod study, researchers compared the drug to placebo, randomly assigning 1,033 patients to either one of two doses of fingolimod (0.5 milligrams or 1.25 milligrams) or to placebo. Patients were followed for 24 months.

    Both doses of fingolimod improved the relapse rate. While nearly 75% of those on the higher fingolimod dose were relapse-free during the study, 70.4% of those on the lower dose were, but just 45.6% of those on placebo.

    They also measured progression of disability, finding that 88.5% of those on higher doses of fingolimod did not have progression of disability, while 87.5% of those on the lower dose didn't and 81% of those on placebo did not have disability progression.

    Cladribine for MS

    In a third study, Gavin Giovannoni, MB, PhD, of Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary University of London and his colleagues evaluated more than 1,300 MS patients who were randomly assigned either two or four short courses of oral cladribine or a placebo. The treatment course included one or two pills a day for four or five days, totaling 8 to 20 days of treatment annually.

    Over the nearly two-year study period, nearly 80% of those on the low-dose cladribine were relapse-free, nearly 79% of those on the higher dose were relapse-free, but just 61% of those on placebo were relapse-free.

    Giovannoni calls the results excellent. "This means that four out of five people are disease-free in terms of relapses," he tells WebMD.

    Cladribine by injection is already approved for treating leukemia under the brand name Leustatin. Shingles occurred in 20 of the patients taking cladribine vs. none in the placebo group.

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