May is MS Awareness Month, and there’s good news: A drug that was previously used to treat a type of leukemia has been found to benefit patients with early multiple sclerosis (MS)‘both those who have not yet been treated for MS and those who did not respond to the first drug they were prescribed. According to the results of two phase III clinical trials published in the journal The Lancet, the drug, called alemtuzumab, reduces the number of relapses experienced by MS patients, when compared to a drug commonly used to treat MS called interferon beta-1a (Rebif). In one two-year study, 65 percent of patients on alemtuzumab remained relapse-free, compared to 47 percent of patients on interferon beta-1a. However, adverse events were higher in the alemtuzumab group.
It’s not yet known when, or if, the drug may become available for Canadians, but the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada is monitoring activities related to alemtuzumab and will provide updates on its website (mssociety.ca).