On the Agenda - Use of leukaemia drug to treat MS

- In a nutshell

Leukaemia drug: treats MS
Leukaemia drug: treats MS

A drug licensed for the treatment of leukaemia has been found to dramatically reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients having a relapse or deterioration. A new UK study of 1,300 patients found that taking cladribine a few times a year more than halved the chances of a relapse, with few side-effects.

- What's the big deal?

Professor Gavin Giovanni, of Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, part of Queen Mary, University of London, has said the drug could revolutionise the treatment of MS. He was speaking to the American Academy of Neurology in Seattle last week. Manufacturer Merck Serono is hoping to seek licensing of cladribine for MS treatment this year.

- What are the details?

The study was a two-year trial testing patients with relapsing-remitting MS. MS is a chronic, inflammatory condition of the central nervous system that affects more than two million people worldwide. Symptoms can vary, but include blurred vision, fatigue, muscle weakness, tremor and lack of co-ordination.

- Media coverage

The story was picked up last week by the Daily Mail, which ran with the headline 'Pill offers MS victims an escape from injections'. The story was also featured on the BBC Health website and in The Guardian.

- PR support

Merck Serono's global press team handled the story from its base in Switzerland. A press release was distributed to media and was also on the pharma firm's website.

85k - Number of MS sufferers in the UK

2,500 - Number of new cases diagnosed each year

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