Patients with advanced multiple sclerosis are set to benefit from the first treatment proven to slow the course of the disease.A major study has shown a daily siponimod tablet slows the advance of symptoms of secondary progressive MS by a fifth.While there are many treatments for MS in its earlier stages, once it has reached the latter phase – usually after 15 or 20 years – there is nothing doctors can do for their patients.Experts last night said the treatment finally offered hope of a treatment for the 100,000 people in Britain suffering with MS.The international study of 1,600 patients, led in the UK by Barts Health NHS Trust and Queen Mary University of London, showed progression to disability was slowed by 21 per cent. The pill also cut the rate of relapse by 55 per cent and loss of brain volume by 23 per cent, according to results published in the Lancet.Some patients even saw their symptoms reversed –regaining energy and the ability to walk long distances.Experts last night stressed it was not a cure, and patients on the whole still saw their symptoms worsen. But they said slowing down its progression could enable people to stay active or remain in work for a few more years.Study author Professor Gavin Giovannoni from Queen Mary University of London said: ‘This study is a landmark because it shifts the paradigm and shows that secondary progressive MS is modifiable.‘It gives hope to people with more advanced MS. We now have a treatment to slow down the inevitable worsening of disability that occurs in the secondary progressive MS phase of the disease.’MS, which affects twice as many women as men, causes loss of mobility, sight problems, tiredness and excruciating pain. The condition attacks the central nervous system, stripping the nerves of their protective coating of myelin.Drugs company Novartis, which makes siponimod, plans to apply for a European licence for the drug by the autumn. It will then be submitted to watchdog NICE for use on the NHS, which means it could be available in British hospitals next year.Dr Susan Kohlhaas, of the MS Society, said: ‘These results bring us closer to the first ever treatment for people with secondary progressive MS, so it’s big news.‘This trial showed that siponimod had a modest but significant effect in slowing disability progression, which is incredibly encouraging.’
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