Studies: Psoriasis Medication Effective as MS Treatment

Dimethyl fumarate, also known as BG-12, has been found to be an effective treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) according to a pair of studies recently published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

The chemical has been commonly used to prevent mold in consumer products such as leather goods and furniture, and that use for dimethyl fumarate was banned in the European Union (EU) several years ago because of consumer complaints of itching, rashes and other allergic reactions, according to EUROPA, the EU's official Web site. Germany approved BG-12 as a psoriasis treatment in the 1990s.

Now, the Journal reports that trial participants who took BG-12 orally two or three times daily showed reduced numbers of MS relapses and brain lesions compared to those participants who had been on the placebo. The participants had been diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS.

Patients receiving the doses of BG-12 also experienced a slowing of disease progression.

A Journal article about the studies said BG-12 "was shown to have anti-inflammatory and cytoprotective (i.e., cell-protective) properties in preclinical experiments and to result in significant reductions in disease activity on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in a phase 2, placebo-controlled study involving patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis."

Participants who received the BG-12 doses received 240 mg per dose. "The primary end point was the proportion of patients who had a relapse by two years," the article said. "Other end points included the annualized relapse rate, the time to confirmed progression of disability, and findings on MRI."

Of patients who received the BG-12 doses twice daily, 27 percent experienced MS relapses; 26 percent of patients who received three doses per day relapsed. The placebo group relapsed at a rate of 46 percent.

Reported side effects of the BG-12 included gastrointestinal issues such as nausea and upper abdominal pain, as well as decreased lymphocyte (a type of white blood cell) counts and elevated liver aminotransferase (i.e., enzyme) levels, the Journal article said. Elevated liver aminotransferase levels can be an indication of liver inflammation or damage, according to MayoClinic.com.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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