Acne medication may delay progress of multiple sclerosis
Canadian researchers investigate common medication as alternative MS treatment
Calgary, October 25, 2007 – A common acne medication that has been available for over 30 years has the potential to delay the progress of multiple sclerosis and if proven effective, will offer an inexpensive option for the treatment of early MS, says the MS Society of Canada.
Clinical researchers in Calgary and 13 other Canadian centres will be taking an in-depth look at an oral therapy known as minocycline after initial studies have shown promising results. A new $4 million multi-centre clinical trial involving 200 participants from across Canada is being funded through the MS Society’s related MS Scientific Research Foundation.
“The benefits of minocycline are straight forward: it’s relatively cheap, has few side effects and can be taken in pill format,” says Dr. Luanne Metz, principal investigator for the study and a professor of clinical neurosciences at the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine. “The aim of our research is to see if this common drug can reduce the occurrence of further disease activity in people who have experienced an initial attack of MS symptoms and who are at high risk of progressing to definite MS. Without treatment, two thirds of people facing this circumstance are expected to be diagnosed with MS within 6 months. We believe minocycline can reduce this number. ”
In MS, myelin, which is the protective coating of the nerve fibres of the brain and spinal cord, becomes inflamed. This inflammation can be seen as characteristic lesions by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Previous clinical tests of minocycline have shown an 84 per cent reduction of MS lesion activity on MRI.
“There is obvious benefit in delaying the rate of disease progression in MS, from improved quality of life to reduced healthcare expenses,” says Dr. William McIlroy, national medical advisor for the MS Society of Canada. “The breadth of the study, the reputation of the researchers involved and the early clinical data supports the view that there is considerable promise for minocycline. We would not be involved if this were not the case.”
Minocycline works by inhibiting the activities of an enzyme and immune cells that are keys to initiating MS attacks. It has been used in acne treatment for its anti-bacterial effects but studies have shown its anti-inflammatory properties could be important factors in slowing down MS. These insights were discovered through pioneering research funded by the MS Society of Canada and led by Dr. V. Wee Yong at the University of Calgary (U of C). Drs. Metz and Yong lead the MS program at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at U of C where many of the early studies on minocycline took place.
In comparing minocycline to current therapies, the cost savings would be substantial. In generic form, minocycline is available for as low as $800 per year. Current MS therapies can cost between $18,000 and $40,000 per year. Researchers note that minocycline would not necessarily replace current therapies, but might delay the timeframe in which they would be required.
The study will be randomized and double-blind by design. Investigators will compare 100 mg of oral minocycline twice daily to placebo over a period of two years.
Enrolment will begin in early 2008 and 14 MS clinics are involved including institutions in Calgary, Vancouver, Burnaby, Edmonton, Red Deer, Saskatoon, London, Toronto, Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Sherbrooke and Halifax.
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