Laquinimod - An experimental immunomodulator developed by Active Biotech and Teva. It is currently being investigated as an oral treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS).
What is Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. Autoimmune diseases are diseases where the body's own immune system, usually effective at targeting and destroying harmful things in the body, instead turns and begins to attack healthy tissue. For people who suffer from MS, their immune system begins to attack their brain and spinal cord, resulting in a variety of symptoms, such as loss of vision, a disruption of balance, and a creeping numbness throughout the body. It is estimated that as many as 400,000 Americans suffer from MS, and it affects women more than twice as often as men.
What Causes Multiple Sclerosis
There is no definitive answer on what causes multiple sclerosis. Some scientists believe there are genetic roots, others think there are environmental factors or a virus, and still others think a combination of all of the above could be to blame. The damage caused by MS leaves lesions, or scars, on the myelin sheath. These lesions effectively interrupt the communication between the brain, the spinal cord, and the nerves, leading to permanent damage and, often, disability. Without knowing the cause of the disease, prevention has become an almost insurmountable task and, as such, scientists are often focusing instead on minimizing the damage caused by multiple sclerosis.
Oral Laquinimod for Multiple Sclerosis
A number of recent studies have assessed the efficiency of a new treatment for Multiple Sclerosis. Called Laquinimod, this new treatment has been shown to be effective in treating the progression of MS for patients with relapsing-remitting forms of the disease. Studies are showing that oral laquinimod taken once daily is effective in reducing the frequency of relapses, or periods where the body appears to be attacking itself. Even more promising, laquinimod was shown to be effective in significantly reducing the permanent nerve and tissue damage associated with MS. Reducing, or preventing permanent tissue damage would alter the course of the disease - less damage means less signs of disability.
What is Relapsing-Remitting MS
Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) is characterized by episodes where new symptoms appear or old symptoms resurface or worsen. Relapses can be lengthy or occur over a relatively short period of time, however, they are unpredictable and the extent of the damage left behind can vary. In the studies, oral laquinimod was shown to reduce the frequency and length of the relapses. Also, the inflammation associated with relapses was significantly reduced - it is the inflammation that often was the reason tissue damage was permanent. In addition to increasing the negative outcomes usually associated with MS, the treatment was also shown to be safe for patients with few side-effects.
Can these Studies be Trusted
The studies indicating the safety and efficacy of the drug laquinimod were carefully screened. The clinical trials were of the most rigorous scientific standards, specifically randomized, double-blind studies. This means that not only was the patient unaware of whether or not they were receiving a placebo or the drug that was on trial, the scientists measuring outcomes were also unaware. This type of study removes both participant and practitioner bias - there are no other studies considered to be as thorough, and informative.
Though there has been a general feeling of defeat with this disease in the past, laquinimod is a new offering that holds great promise. It is not a cure for MS, but it does offer patients a better outcome and a chance at a better life.
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