Trials of multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment glatiramer acetate show that it can significantly delay the full onset of the disease
At present the drug, developed as Copaxone by Teva Pharmaceuticals, is only recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) for “confirmed” patients.
Although many may initially suffer symptoms ranging from mild tingling to severe paralysis, in most cases the symptoms quickly fade away.
This “clinically isolated syndrome” (CIS) does not always lead to full-blown MS, and the disease is only confirmed as “clinically definite” if a second episode of symptoms occurs.
The trials have shown that glatiramer acetate cuts the chance of a confirmed diagnosis by almost half over a three years, although it is not clear how long it takes for symptom-free patients to become ill.
While the drug can delay the onset of chronic symptoms, it is not a cure. Evidence suggests it can reduce the frequency of symptoms in patients with “relapsing-remitting” MS by 30%.
The drug was only approved after Teva agreed to “risk sharing”, reimburse some of the cost if the medicine failed to prove effective. Annual costs are around £6,650.
Copyright Press Association 2009