Common acne medication could present new hope for MS patients

A clinical study suggests that it could work as well as more expensive therapies for multiple sclerosis

Common acne medication could present new hope for MS patients
A clinical trial led by researchers from the University of Calgary may be the key to more affordable multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment.

Based on the results of the trial, which have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the antibiotic minocycline could be just as effective as currently available therapies against early-stage MS, reported Huffington Post Canada. The best part: it costs $600 a year, compared to an annual price tag of $20,000 for other treatments.

Another benefit of minocycline is that it’s less invasive. While other treatments require injection and frequent blood monitoring, minocycline can be taken orally, with typical side effects of initial dizziness and digestive upset. The researchers also said that the drug has been on the market for decades, and its off-label use for MS would not need to be approved by Health Canada.

The Phase 3 trial involved 142 test subjects between 18 and 60 years old from across Canada, all of whom had recently experienced symptoms for the first time but had not been formally diagnosed.

According to lead researcher and University of Calgary neurologist Luanne Metz, around two-thirds of those who experience MS-like symptoms get diagnosed with the chronic disease within six months. Among all the test subjects, 61% developed full-blown MS within that time; the percentage dropped to 33% among those given minocycline.

“[T]hat degree of [reduction] is very similar to ... the other therapies that are already approved for treating the clinically isolated syndrome,” Metz told Huffington Post Canada.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, along with its affiliated scientific research foundation, contributed more than $4 million toward the clinical trial. Angelica Asis, the society’s acting director of research, said they would welcome future studies into therapy using minocycline.

“More research is needed to really establish how long does the effect last or does it apply to more people with MS?” she said. “What about people who are later in their disease versus a very early stage?”

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