In multiple sclerosis (MS), the immune system attacks the protective myelin sheath that covers nerve fibers. This leads to communication problems between the brain and the body. Eventually, the nerves can deteriorate or become permanently damaged. Currently there are no neuroprotective drugs available for multiple sclerosis sufferers.
A commonly-used epilepsy drug has brought hope for multiple sclerosis sufferers as it may help prevent nerve damage.
‘The drug phenytoin slowed the progress of optic neuritis, a symptom leading to blurred vision. Scientists believe that this commonly used epilepsy drug could have a similar protective effect throughout the brain in patients with multiple sclerosis.’
The University College London study found that the drug phenytoin slowed the progress of optic neuritis, a symptom leading to blurred vision, and scientists believe it could have a similar protective effect throughout the brain.
In the study, 86 people with acute optic neuritis were either given phenytoin or an inactive placebo 'dummy drug' for three months and at the end of the trial, the group who received the genuine drug had on average 30% less damage to the nerve fiber layer at the back of the eye.
Lead researcher Dr. Raj Kapoor said, "These are promising results and if the findings are confirmed by larger, Phase III trials, could lead to a new treatment that protects nerves from the damage caused both in optic neuritis and throughout the central nervous system in other attacks of multiple sclerosis."
The findings are reported in The Lancet Neurology.