Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease affecting more than 2.3 million people around the world. The condition attacks myelin, or the waxy coat around nerves, and compromises the nerves’ ability to transmit messages.
Over time, as the nerves’ function is steadily reduced, a range of symptoms — including problems with vision, muscle weakness, difficulty walking, and issues with balance and coordination — develop.
Current treatment focuses on preventing the immune system from causing further damage, and as it stands, no drugs can repair the damaged myelin.
Discovering a medication capable of rebuilding the damaged myelin would be a huge step forward. And according to the latest study, this may be just around the corner.
New MS drug on the horizon?
In 2014, studies carried out by Prof. Jonah R. Chan at the University of California, San Francisco showed that clemastine fumarate may be a candidate for the treatment of MS.
Because of the potential importance of the findings, the drug quickly progressed to clinical trials. This week, the results from a phase II clinical trial on clemastine fumarate are published in The Lancet.
Clemastine fumarate was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1977. It is an antihistamine medication for allergies and has been available over the counter since 1993. Its potential to treat MS is therefore as surprising as it is welcome.
According to principal investigator Dr. Ari Green, “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time a therapy has been able to reverse deficits caused by MS. It’s not a cure, but it’s a first step toward restoring brain function to the millions who are affected by this chronic, debilitating disease.”