(Adds details throughout)
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON Feb 26 A drug being developed by
Acorda Therapeutics Inc (ACOR.O) helps some people with
multiple sclerosis walk better, an important step in improving
their quality of life, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.
If approved by the U.S. government, it would be the first
MS drug to reverse a symptom of the disease, said Dr. Andrew
Goodman of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New
York, who led the study.
Thirty-five percent of MS patients who previously had
difficulty walking increased their walking speed after taking
Acorda Therapeutics' drug fampridine for 14 weeks, according to
the study in the Lancet medical journal.
That compared to 8 percent of those taking a placebo. The
patients who were helped by the drug walked about 25 percent
more quickly over a distance of 25 feet (8 metres) than they
did before taking fampridine.
The people taking the drug also had stronger legs and were
better able to do daily activities such as walking outside the
home, standing and going up and down stairs.
Hawthorne, New York-based Acorda Therapeutics funded the
study. Goodman has served as a consultant to the company.
KNOWING IT WORKS
The study involved 301 adults in the United States and
Canada with MS. Some took 10 milligrams of the drug twice
daily, while others got a twice-daily placebo.
There is no cure for MS. Existing drugs aim to slow the
progression of the disease and prevent relapses, but patients
may not know whether they are working, Goodman said.
"With these pills, the patients know if it's working,"
Goodman said in a telephone interview.
Acorda submitted a new drug application for fampridine to
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Jan. 30.
"This trial included both physician and patient assessment
scales that demonstrated both improvement in walking speed and
clinical meaningfulness of that improvement," Dr. Ron Cohen,
president and CEO of Acorda Therapeutics, said in a statement.
"The results of this study indicate that fampridine-SR
could potentially represent an important new treatment option
in managing MS," Cohen added.
Acorda declined to comment on media reports that Biogen
Idec Inc (BIIB.O) was in talks to buy the company to get access
In MS, the immune system attacks the function of nerve
fibers in the brain and spinal cord, interfering with the
communication between the brain and the rest of the body. The
drug may improve nerve signals by affecting cellular doorways
called potassium ion channels, the researchers said.
An estimated 2.5 million people worldwide have MS,
including about 400,000 in the United States, according to the
National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
(Editing by Maggie Fox and Xavier Briand)