Friday, January 22, 2010

Good news for multiple sclerosis patients 

Regular readers know that I have a longstanding personal interest in the fight against multiple sclerosis and sometimes publicize positive developments in the war against that very challenging disease. So it is today, for the FDA has approved a new oral drug to help victims of MS walk better.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Ampyra (dalfampridine) extended release tablets to improve walking in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). In clinical trials, patients treated with Ampyra had faster walking speeds than those treated with an inactive pill (placebo). This is the first drug approved for this use.

MS is a chronic, often disabling, disease that affects the central nervous system—the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. There are about 400,000 people in the United States and 2.5 million people world-wide with MS.

The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another. Symptoms can be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. About half of all people with MS experience cognitive impairments like difficulties in concentration, attention, memory, and judgment, although these symptoms are usually mild and are frequently overlooked. Depression also is common among MS patients.

"Trouble with walking is one of the most debilitating problems people with MS face," said Russell Katz, M.D., director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

The heroes in this victory are the employees of and investors in Acorda Therapeutics (NASDAQ: ACOR) and the physicians and other health care providers that no doubt pitched in to make this possible. An otherwise retched stock market pitched in with a nice post-announcement gain, the first of what we hope are substantial financial and psychic rewards for the people of Acorda Therapeutics. Thank you.


By Blogger Fritz, at Fri Jan 22, 06:15:00 PM:

It's a little sad that you omitted any mention of the scientists who did the fundamental research upon which this drug was based. They almost certainly aren't employed by Acorda. For better or for worse, those are our society's values - we reward entrepreneurs, not scientists.

I hope the researchers were savvy enough to negotiate a piece of the revenue from the patent... if they're lucky, their technology transfer office helped them with that.  

By Blogger Cas, at Fri Jan 22, 07:09:00 PM:

Of course, no EVIL pharmaceutical company would ever employ a scientist to conduct research, because the ONLY reason they exist is to milk profits from those poor, poor Americans who can't afford their health care anyway...(/sarcasm)
Give me a break! ALL of these drugs exist, AND are brought to market safely, by those same companies that most of us invest in. (where are YOUR mutual funds invested?) These same scientists and investors are one of the only reasons that the average life-span has doubled in the past 100 years, and, as this new drug proves, has also improved the quality of our lives! And most of our illustrious Congress-Critters were trying to kill the "goose that lays the golden eggs" with their health-care bill monstrosity! Idiots!  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Sun Jan 24, 10:18:00 AM:

The research in potassium channel blockers goes back well over a decade in papers from the UK, Canada and the US. The drug kind of foundered around for a long time with somewhat questionable effectivness in spinal injury patients...then found it's way into the treatment of MS.

It takes a committed pharmaceutical company to give the backing to fund, organize and carry out the clinical trials for MS patients, not to mention putting the drug thru the bewilderingly complicated FDA approval process.

With demagogues in DC trying to rationalize their self-serving, crap-sandwich health care plan by condemning the "Big Health Care" industry, it's easy to lose perspective on how much these industries REALLY do for us as individuals on a daily basis.

They deserve every dollar they earn...and then they go on to spend a huge chunk of those dollars on research and development.

Can Congress claim the same results with the money they are given???  

By Blogger Willuz, at Mon Jan 25, 01:11:00 PM:

As a person who could benefit from the aforementioned medication and a former employee of a pharmaceutical company I am familiar with the need for profits on new medications. As stated above research in this area was not successful in the past so there was a great deal of risk spending millions to research this drug. Without the chance of a big reward it would not be worth the risk and they wouldn't have bothered to continue research. When working in pharmaceuticals I saw first hand how many projects failed or offered little return but were carried by profits from a few successful medications. When opponents decry the huge profits they seem to ignore the massive costs of noble endeavors that fail.

Where is the moral rage against Al Gore? He has become a billionaire just talking about healing the planet. At least big pharma is healing real people with real problems.  

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