AN OXFORD drug company has developed the first pill to treat Multiple Sclerosis that can be prescribed to the majority of sufferers.
Until now people with the most common form of MS, relapsing and remitting (RRMS), have only been able to medicate with injections.
But on Wednesday Oxford firm Genzyme, based at the Oxford Business Park in Cowley, had its new pill Aubagio approved by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).
Jenna Mahoney, a spokesman for the MS Society, said: “This is excellent news for people with MS.
“There are a number of treatments for this sort of MS but they are all injectable, and this offers people an alternative for the first time.”
She said that in a recent MS Society survey, a “huge” proportion of sufferers said they would prefer to take a tablet to an injection.
Aubagio, the trade name for chemical teriflunomide, slows down the degenerative effects of the disease.
In Multiple Sclerosis, the immune system starts attacking the coating around the body’s nerve cells, which stops them from working.
Symptoms can start with blurred vision and periods of fatigue and progress to memory loss and impared judgement.
The Aubagio pill, which unlike other drugs is a non-biological chemical, slows down the immune system’s attack.
John Chipperfield, the MS Society’s Oxford and district branch chairman, whose wife Marilyn suffers from the disease, welcomed the new drug.
He said: “This is really good news.
“It’s the first tablet for early stage relapsing remitting MS and gives people an alternative option to regular injections, which can be unpleasant and really difficult to manage.”
There is one other pill treatment for MS but it is for more severe forms of the disease.
Aubagio is the first oral treatment for RRMS, which accounts for 85 per cent of patients, and the first pill which can be prescribed to sufferers on the NHS as soon as they are diagnosed.
Amy Bowen, director of service development at the MS Trust, said: “Having Aubagio available as an effective, simple, oral treatment option, which only needs to be taken once daily, is an exciting development for people with MS.”
In the UK about 100,000 people are living with MS.
Genzyme general manager Brendan Martin said: “This is a very exciting time and the launch of Aubagio represents an important milestone for Genzyme as we provide options to the MS community.
“Our commitment to improving the lives of people with MS goes beyond treatment options, and we have a patient support programme under way.”