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Norwich drugs trial's major success

PUBLISHED: 06:30 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 07:36 02 July 2010

Donna Clements, MS research nurse, and patient Amanda Cook

Donna Clements, MS research nurse, and patient Amanda Cook

Dan Grimmer

The results of a revolutionary drug trial carried out at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital could be used to help thousands of people with multiple sclerosis.

Dan Grimmer

The results of a revolutionary drug trial carried out at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital could be used to help thousands of people with multiple sclerosis.

Ten patients from the N&N were among the first in the country to trial a new drug for the debilitating condition.

The results have today been published in the internationally renowned “New England Journal of Medicine” and illustrate how the pill fingolimod can be twice as effective as commonly used injections.

The N&N is just one of four centres taking part in the major study - called the Transforms trial - which looks at how patients with the “relapsing-remitting” form of MS can use daily pills to control the illness, as opposed to painful injections.

MS affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, causing problems with muscle control, vision and balance and it often also affects memory, moods and emotions. It affects about 85,000 people in the UK and there are varying forms of the disease

It can strike anyone at any age but is typically diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40 and the unpredictable nature of relapsed form can make it difficult for a person to make plans in their life.

Donna Clements, neurology research nurse at the N&N and involved in the Transforms trial said: “This research is fantastic news for people with MS and great to be published in such a well-respected journal.

“The biggest fear in MS is that a relapse will come out of the blue and lead to irreversible disability. A daily pill that cuts the number of relapses by half could make a huge difference for people.

“Injections can also be painful, make it difficult to travel and can leave unsightly marks on the body. The convenience and confidence that fingolimod offers is big news and offers real hope to MS patients.”

This is the first time that data has been published showing a pill to halve the number of relapses as compared to a commonly used injection, providing a clearer picture for how MS could be managed in the future.

The research has given the government information to help decide whether this drug can be used by patients across the country in the future.

Mother-of-two Amanda Cook, a deputy sister on the EAU (emergency assessment unit) at the N& N, was diagnosed with MS in 2004. She previously used to inject herself but found it “painful with harsh side effects” and she said taking the pill has changed her life.

The 45-year-old from Attleborough said: “This drug has just been brilliant news for anyone with MS. It is a cruel condition and anything that slows down its progress is fantastic.

“There is no cure for MS but if there are things like this that make a really big difference. I have been taken fingolimod for three years now and have not had a relapse.”

Do you have a health story for the Evening News? Call Sarah Hall on 01603 772426 or email sarah.hall2@archant.co.uk

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