relapsing MS, there are few options for progressive forms of the disease, said Dr. Robert Fox, lead researcher on the new study.
In general, the drugs for relapsing MS do not work for people with progressive forms, said Fox, a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic.
The biology of progressive MS, Fox explained, seems to be “fundamentally different.” Inflammation drives relapsing MS, while the progressive forms seem to be driven by degeneration of nerve cells in the brain, following damage from the inflammatory phase.
Ibudilast can suppress inflammation, and it was first tested against relapsing MS — where it failed to prevent relapses. But, Fox said, the drug did slow brain shrinkage (atrophy). And that led researchers to suspect it might help patients with progressive MS.
Fox and his colleagues recruited 255 patients with progressive MS from 28 U.S. medical centers. Patients were randomly assigned to take either ibudilast or placebo pills every day for 96 weeks.
In the end, patients on the drug showed, on average, 48 percent less atrophy in their brain tissue.
The big question, Fox said, is whether that will slow patients’ progression to disability.
“This is a proof-of-concept,” he said. “We’ve shown that this slows