Multiple Sclerosis Drug
Researchers believe they may have found a drug that reduces the number and severity of attacks in multiple sclerosis patients. The new drug slows the progression of the disease which leads to crippling disabilities. Copaxone (copolymer-1) was tested for patients with relapsing, remitting multiple sclerosis.
Six years ago optician Vince suffered his first multiple sclerosis attack. It affected his vision and mobility. “The very first thing that happened… it started with numbness in my feet, then it ascended up my leg to my waist.”
Four years ago Vince started taking an experimental drug called copolymer-1 being tested at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Doctors say it can reduce the number of attacks by 33 percent.
“In the usual case there is some recovery in a matter of weeks, in a matter of months, the symptoms go away and the person either returns to normal or almost normal.” Said Doctor.
Doctors say it’s as effective as standard treatment and the body doesn’t build up resistance to the drug.
The recommendation by Dr. is that it be used for early patients, patients who have only had one or two relapses and who have a positive M-R-I scan.
Multiple sclerosis is caused by the immune system attacking the nervous system. We classify it as an autoimmune disease. copolymer-1 calms down or inhibits or polices the immune system so it doesn’t damage the nervous system.
The immune system uses a series of different cells to attack the nervous system. The key cell is a T-lymphocyte. Multiple sclerosis is an auto-immune disease in which the immune system attacks the nervous system. The key cell is the T-cell, T-lymphocyte. This lymphocyte has to be taught how to recognize and then damage some part of the body, in this case the insulation around the nerves cells in the central nervous system. What copolymer-1 does is to replace or compete with the part of the nervous system which the T-lymphocyte is looking for, and so it stops the T-lymphocyte from recognizing and then attacking the nervous system.
In multiple sclerosis the T-lymphocyte is the key player in the mechanism to damage myelin, which is the part of the nervous system that is destroyed in MS. The lymphocyte has to be taught to recognize a specific antigen or part of a nervous system. copolymer-1 gets in the way. It attaches to the lymphocyte and substitutes for the antigen of the nervous system and, therefore, the T-lymphocyte does not recognize and therefore damage or attack and damage the nervous system.
Studies of the natural history of multiple sclerosis, that is studies of the people who have the disease and have no therapy, show that if a person has a lot of attacks then they have a greater risk of having disability. To give you specific numbers, if you have two or fewer attacks in the first two years after the diagnosis is made then it takes about eighteen years before half of the people in the group would need some kind of walking aides like crutches or a wheelchair. On the other hand if a person has five or more attacks in their first two years, then it’s only six years before half of those patients will need some kind of walking aides. So there is quite a clear correlation between the number of attacks or relapses that a person experiences and the risk that they have of disability. That’s serious disability like crutches or-well a wheelchair. Now it hasn’t been fully proven yet because the study has not been going on long enough or the experience of the Copaxone is not long enough. But our hope is that by reducing the number of relapses by a third we can also delay the chance so the risks that a person will have serious disability end substantially.
“Previously before I was on this drug, I was having an MS attack every 12 months. And since I’ve been on this drug I haven’t had one in four years. And I think results speak for themselves.”
There are a few minor side effects to copolymer-1. Some patients experience itching around the injection site and a brief rapid heart beat.