Serious side effects discovered with approved drug
The treatment options for multiple sclerosis (MS) are still very limited, but some medications have been explicitly approved for the treatment of MS, and so patients promise advantages from taking them. This also applies to the active ingredient alemtuzumab, which is commercially available under the name Lemtrada. However, in a recent study, scientists from the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) came to the conclusion that the drug can massively worsen the patient's condition.
The research team led by Professor Dr. Aiden Haghikia and Professor Dr. Ralf Gold from the RUB Clinic for Neurology at St. Josef Hospital has discovered previously unknown, serious side effects of the approved MS drug. The active ingredient alemtuzumab can significantly worsen the symptoms in multiple sclerosis patients, warn the RUB scientists. The researchers have published the results of their investigations in the specialist journal "The Lancet Neurology".
Various drugs approved for MS treatment
In MS patients, the insulating layer of the nerve fibers, the so-called myelin, is attacked by the immune system and the cell processes are permanently damaged, the scientists explain the clinical picture. Although ten different classes of medication have now been specifically approved for MS treatment, a cure is not possible based on the previous treatment options. Only the progression of the disease can be slowed down and the symptoms can be alleviated.
Severe, unpredictable side effects
The active medicinal product also includes the active ingredient alemtuzumab, which is used for severe episodes of illness. Alemtuzumab docks onto a protein on the surface of certain immune cells, causing them to die. Although it was already known from the approval studies that a quarter of the treated patients mostly show mild side effects in which immune cells - mainly in the thyroid gland - target the body's own cells, the researchers are now discovering further serious side effects of the MS drug, the message said the RUB. "The multiple sclerosis (MS) drug alemtuzumab can cause serious, unpredictable side effects," report Prof. Dr. Haghikia and Prof. Gold.
The patient's condition deteriorated significantly
The scientists write in the renowned journal "Lancet Neurology" about two patients in whom alemtuzumab significantly aggravated the symptoms. They received alemtuzumab therapy because they suffered from highly active MS and, despite multiple previous therapies, had severe episodes of illness with inflammation in the central nervous system. However, the symptoms had worsened significantly six months after the therapy. In “Magnetic resonance imaging studies, the researchers discovered a kind of new inflammatory mode: They found areas in the brain in which the contrast medium was embedded in a ring in the white substance,” reports the RUB. The patients had not previously shown this in their medical history.
Side effects can be contained
According to the researchers, the cause of the worsening of the clinical picture was treatment with the MS drug in both cases. However, the side effects could be successfully contained with targeted counter-therapy, the scientists write. It should be assumed that the measures applied could also benefit other patients who are treated with alemtuzumab, the RUB researchers continue. (fp)