A drug used to treat multiple sclerosis, alemtuzumab, was found to reverse some of the physical disability caused by the disease. Researchers noted that the benefits of alemtuzumab, if confirmed, need to be considered along with its risks, which include the risk of serious and rarely fatal autoimmune problems as well as infusion reactions.
Alemtuzumab is used in relapsing-remitting MS. It is generally used in people who have not responded well to other MS drugs; however, in this study it was used relatively early in the course of MS. For the study, people with RRMS who did not respond well to at least one other MS drug were treated either with alemtuzumab or the drug interferon beta-1a.
Researchers, led by Gavin Giovannoni, of Queen Mary University of London, assessed the participants’ level of disability at the beginning of the study and again every three months for two years. By the end of the study, nearly 28 percent of those receiving alemtuzumab had improved by at least one point on a disability test, with scores ranging from zero to 10, compared to 15 percent of those receiving interferon. People receiving alemtuzumab were 2.5 times more likely to improve on the assessment of thinking skills than those receiving interferon, and were more than twice as likely to improve on the ability to move without tremor or clumsy movements known as ataxia. The researchers adjusted the results to make sure the improvements were not driven by people recovering from recent relapses.
The findings were published in the journal Neurology.