12.03.2013 - Elan and Biogen Idec have presented a new test at AAN meeting which identifies JCV infected MS patients with good prognosis.
Whilst Tysabri (natalizumab) is the most effective treatment for relapsing multiple sclerosis, it has also its downsides: the antibody drug increases the risk of a rare but potentially fatal brain infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). A study presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 65th Annual Meeting in San Diego suggests that early detection of PML may help improve survival and disability levels of MS patients.
In the study, which was conducted by Irish Elan and Biogen Idec, 319 MS patients were treated with natalizumab and diagnosed with PML. The study compared people who had symptoms of PML at the time of diagnosis to people who had no symptoms of the infection, but who were diagnosed with the disease by brain scans and tests in the spinal fluid for the JC virus. The level of disability for the people in the study was assessed before the PML diagnosis, at the time of diagnosis, and again six months and one year after the diagnosis.
A total of 21 people had no PML symptoms at the time of their diagnosis, while 298 people did. According to preliminary findings, people without symptoms at diagnosis showed improved survival and less disability than those who had developed symptoms. As of January 1, 2013, all of the 21 people (100%) with no symptoms at the time of PML diagnosis were alive, compared to 77% of the people with symptoms at the time of diagnosis. "These results suggest that the consequences of PML infection can be mitigated by early detection of the disease," said lead investigator Dong-Si.
In mid-February, US biotech Biogen Idec had bagged full rights to Elan's Multiple Sclerosis blockbuster Tysabri in a US$3.25bn deal. Shortly after the agreement, US investor Royalty Pharma made a take-over bid but the Irish drugmaker is fighting off a possible take-over.
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