Person pointing at a screen and holding a molecule
July 5, 2012 | News | MS ResearchMS Treatments

Oral Tysabri-like drug in development

A large study has found that a new drug in development for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) appears to reduce inflammatory activity in the brain (Miller and colleagues. Lancet Neurol 2012; epublished January 5, 2012). The drug, firategrast, acts in a way that is similar to how natalizumab (Tysabri) works, but is given orally.

The phase II study gave one of four different doses of firategrast or a placebo to 343 people with MS over a period of 24 weeks. Only the two highest doses had a significant effect on the number of new inflammatory lesions in the brain, as seen on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The reduction in new enhancing lesions was 49% with the higher dosing. The most notable side effect was a higher rate of urinary tract infections in people taking firategrast.

Like natalizumab, firategrast targets a molecule called alpha4-integrin, blocking activated immune cells from crossing into the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). While natalizumab is administered by infusion once a month, firategrast is taken as a pill twice a day.

Because of the similarities of firategrast and natalizumab, investigators were concerned about the emergence of PML (progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy). PML, a potentially fatal brain disorder, is caused by reactivation of the JC virus. Fortunately there were no cases of PML or evidence of JC virus activation during this study.

Share this article
pin it!

Related Posts