According to a story from Medical Xpress, a recent study has suggested that the drug eculizumab could substantially reduce the risk of disease relapse in patients with the rare disease neuromyelitis optica. This is a positive development for patients with this rare autoimmune disease, which can be lethal in severe cases. The research team included scientists from the Mayo Clinic as well as international partners.
About Neuromyelitis Optica
Neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSD) is a term meant to include both neuromyelitis optica patients and those that lack the APQ4 auto antibody but still present similarly otherwise. This disorder is also known as Devic’s disease. It is characterized by inflammation of the optic nerve and spinal cord along with destruction of the myelin sheath, an insulating, protective layer surrounding nerve cells. It is considered an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly begins attacking parts of the body. It is frequently associated with other diseases, such as viral infection and antiMOG associated encephalomyelitis, that latter of which can be a direct cause in some cases. Symptoms include blindness, urinary incontinence, spastic paralysis of the legs and arms, reduced sensation, and overall muscle weakness. Symptoms can be treated, but many patients are left with a degree of impairment. To learn more about neuromyelitis optica, click here.
The Danger of Relapse
The primary treatment methods for neuromyelitis optica include a number of drugs that can suppress the activity of the immune system. These medications are used off-label for this purpose and have not been officially approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating the disease. Unfortunately, prior research suggests that up to 60 percent of patients using these therapies eventually experience disease relapse. Avoiding relapse is essential because with each renewed attack, a patient can become even more debilitated.
About The Study
In the study, 143 adults with neuromyelitis optica participated and included patients from 18 different countries. All patients tested positive for an antibody that is associated with the disease. Patients were also permitted to continue their current therapy if they wished. One group was treated with a placebo and another was give eculizumab. The results were clear: the drug was able to curtail relapse by 94 percent. After 48 weeks 98 percent of the patients given the drug had not experienced relapse, but only 63 percent of the placebo group had not.
The original results were published in the scientific journal New England Journal of Medicine.