Encouraging news for those among the 2.5 million people suffering from relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS): The Food and Drug Administration just approved an oral drug designed to treat the disease. The new drug is called Gildnya (fingolimod), and differs from other MS drugs, which come in the form of injections or infusion. Gilenya will allow MS sufferers to take a pill once a day, making medication management far easier than it has been in the past.
The case of MS is unknown, though treatment options are slowly improving. MS effects the central nervous system in a strange and complex way. Basically, the body's own immune system attacks part of the brain that protects brain, spine and eye nerves. As the protective layer is removed and destroyed, the resulting scar tissue causes nerve signals to be blocked leading the serious medical complications.
"Gilenya is the first oral drug that can slow the progression of disability and reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms in MS," said FDA director Dr. Russell Katz in a statement, CNN reports.
The drug itself is not a vaccine, nor is it by any means a cure for the disease. Instead, like the other multiple sclerosis drugs developed so far, it slows down and helps patients to manage the disease as best they can. According to Dr. Nicholas LaRocca, Vice President of Health Care Delivery and Policy Research for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Gilenya "manipulates the immune system in a way that's beneficial for patients with MS." That said, the drug cut the rate of relapse by as much as 62% in newly diagnosed patients and 44% in patients that had been treated in the past.
It's certainly encouraging news for a disease that continues to wreck the lives of millions of its sufferers.