A new pill may soon replace the painful injections for multiple sclerosis treatment, say researchers.
The research team led by Professor Gavin Giovannoni of Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry has shown that cladribine tablets just a few times a year can reduce the chances of a relapse by well over 50 per cent.
Cladribine tablets work by suppressing the immune system, reducing the risk of further damage to a patient's nervous system.
In the new study, the researchers followed over 1,300 MS patients for nearly two years.
They were given either two or four treatment courses of cladribine tablets per year, or a placebo.
Each course consists of a single tablet per day for four or five days, adding up to just eight to 20 days of treatment each year.
The study showed that the patients who were taking a placebo, those taking cladribine tablets were over 55 per cent less likely to suffer a relapse and 30 per cent less likely to suffer worsening in their disability due to MS.
"These results are really exciting. MS can be a very debilitating illness and at the moment treatment options remain limited. Having an effective oral therapy will have a major impact for people with MS," said Professor Giovannoni.
"Our study shows that cladribine tablets prevent relapses and slow down the progression of the disease making patients feel better.
"Importantly, it does so without the need for constant injections that are associated with unpleasant side effects.
"We will continue to follow the patients in the trial to see how they fare in the long-term," Giovannoni added.
The findings were presented at Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Seattle.