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Christchurch trial paves way for new MS treatment

Published: 7:56PM Tuesday December 18, 2012 Source: ONE News

Hopes are high for the future of a new drug to treat an auto-immune disease that affects more than 3000 New Zealanders.

An early trial of the drug to treat multiple sclerosis developed in New Zealand has already improved the quality of life for several patients.

Stephen Mudgway has been making the trip into Christchurch's clinical trials unit for several months now.

Lining up alongside other MS patients for a weekly dose of hope - the drug called MIS-416.

"It's not something that's gonna be a cure, but it makes life a lot more bearable," he says.

Mudgway said within hours of his first shot his hand-eye co-ordination improved, as did his eyesight. He could stand for longer periods of time.

"I could think a lot clearer. I went from 18 hours to about nine hours sleep, more energy during the day and I could see a future.

"Before, I couldn't see a future. It was dark and dim."

Current drugs for secondary progressive MS only treat the symptoms of the disease. But MIS-416 is the first aimed at modulating the part of the immune system which is attacking itself.

"We've got an immune system that's out of control in these patients and we're ramping up that part of the immune system that's responsible for re-gaining control," says Innate Immunotherapeutic chief executive Simon Wilkinson.

Between March and May this year, 15 patients came weekly to this clinical trials unit to get injected with 550 micrograms of MIS-416. After the trial, several of the patients have remained on the drug on a compassionate basis.

Mudgway is one of them.

"I'd find it hard to give up this drug, because I wouldn't like to go back to the way I was."

The first patient trial helped establish the drug's safety and efficacy.

"We certainly aren't taking the patients all the way back to being in perfect health," says Wilkinson.

"But what we do seem to be doing is reversing disabilities that have been acquired over the preceding 6-12 months."

The drug has cost $50 million to develop so far and has just gained a US patent.

The next larger trial, involving 150 patients, will begin next year in Australia.

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