April 12, 2011 -- The experimental oral multiple sclerosis (MS) drug laquinimod delayed disease progression, reduced relapse rates, and was safe and well tolerated by patients in a two-year study.
Details of the study were announced Monday by the drug’s developer, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Honolulu.
A company spokesman tells WebMD that the drug met four key goals for an MS treatment by slowing disease progression, reducing relapse rates, showing a good safety profile with little evidence of immune system suppression, and being easy for patients to take.
Until recently, all the available MS drugs were given by injection. That changed last fall when the FDA approved the first oral treatment for multiple sclerosis -- Novartis’ Gilenya (fingolimod).
About 400,000 Americans and 2 million people worldwide are estimated to have MS, a neurologic disease affects the brain and spinal cord. It causes symptoms such as muscle weakness, loss of vision, and problems with balance. MS is most often diagnosed in adults under age 50.
The study of laquinimod originally included 1,106 MS patients from 24 countries who took either a once-daily 0.6-milligram dose of laquinimod or placebo for two years.
Compared to the placebo-treated patients, the patients who got the MS drug had:
23% reduction in annual relapse rates, a key indicator of drug effectiveness in MS
36% reduction in progression in confirmed disability
Jon Congleton, who is vice president of Teva’s U.S. subsidiary Teva Neuroscience, says laquinimod’s overall profile has advantages over other approved and experimental MS drugs.
Congleton says the main consideration for most doctors and patients is slowing disease progression. He says laquinimod did this and was well tolerated.
“When people in the prime of life get hit with MS, all they can envision is that wheelchair out there waiting for them,” he tells WebMD. “The best way to keep them out of that wheelchair is by slowing disease progression. This drug did this in a safe way.”