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Today, Novartis announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the oral multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment Gilenya (fingolimod) 0.5 mg daily, a first-line treatment for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis – the most common forms of the disease.
The FDA approval makes Gilenya the first oral treatment indicated for relapsing forms of MS available in the US.
“Today is a significant and encouraging day for people with relapsing forms of MS in the US,” said Nicholas LaRocca, Vice President of Healthcare Delivery and Policy Research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“A new treatment option that offers significant efficacy in the convenience of a capsule is a welcome alternative to frequent injections for individuals living with this chronic disease.”
Gilenya reduces the frequency of MS relapses (flare-ups) and helps slow the build-up of some of the physical problems caused by MS. In clinical trials, Gilenya has a well-studied safety and tolerability profile, which has been characterised in over 2,600 clinical trial patients, some of whom are in their seventh year of treatment, with more than 4,500 patient years of experience.
“Through a novel mechanism of action, Gilenya can significantly improve clinical outcomes among patients with relapsing forms of MS,” said Fred Lublin, MD, Saunders Family Professor of Neurology, The Corinne Goldsmith Dickinson Center for Multiple Sclerosis, Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
“Gilenya provides significant efficacy and manageable safety when used in accordance with approved labeling, making it a valuable advancement for relapsing MS patients and the physicians who treat them.”
The Gilenya approval was based on the largest clinical trial program ever submitted to date to the FDA for a new MS drug and included combined data from clinical studies showing significant efficacy in reducing relapses, the risk of disability progression, and the number of brain lesions detected by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a measure of disease activity, in people with relapsing forms of MS.
“We are proud to have worked successfully with the MS community toward a shared goal of bringing a novel efficacious treatment to people with relapsing forms of MS,” said Trevor Mundel, MD, Global Head of Development at Novartis Pharma AG.
“We are actively pursuing regulatory approval in Europe and the rest of the world.”
Gilenya is the first in a new class of drugs called sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor (S1PR) modulators. In MS, the immune system damages the covering that protects nerve fibers in the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the brain and spinal cord. Gilenya’s novel mechanism is unknown, but it is thought to work by reducing the immune system’s attack on the CNS by retaining certain white blood cells (lymphocytes) in the lymph nodes. This prevents the white blood cells from reaching the CNS, where they could potentially attack the protective covering around the nerve fibers, resulting in less inflammatory damage to the nerve cells. The white blood cell retention is reversible if Gilenya treatment is stopped.