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Minocycline may help reduce the rate of MS progression

Lead author of the study, Professor Luanne Metz from the Cumming School of Medicine, with neuroscientist V. Wee Yong, who initially had the idea to test the acne medicine in an animal model// Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Canadian researchers suggest that the acne therapy minocycline might slow down the progression of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) in people who have recently experienced their first symptoms, according to the results of a Phase III clinical trial published in The New England Journal of Medicine (June 2017; 376:2122–2133).

This multi-center trial involved 142 patients between 18 and 60 years of age who displayed their first demyelinating symptoms of MS 180 days before starting treatment. During the investigation period (Jan. 2009 through July 2013), the patients were randomized to receive either 100 mg of minocycline, administered orally twice daily (n=72), or placebo (n=70).

Data showed that the unadjusted risk of conversion to multiple sclerosis within six months after randomization was 61.0% in the placebo group and 33.4% in the minocycline group, a difference of 27.6 percentage points.

“The clinical results are compelling,” said Dr. Luanne Metz, the lead author, and professor and head in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Calgary. “Based on these findings, neurologists will be able to prescribe minocycline for people experiencing their first symptoms of demyelination if an MRI suggests the cause will likely prove to be MGS.”

This discovery is a “game changer” because [minocycline] is safe, affordable and could affect newly diagnosed patients worldwide, said Dr. Metz, who was quoted in a press release.

“Patients will now have yet another treatment option, one that does not require injections, monitoring lab work, or special authorization by their insurance company; provided they have adequate coverage, to begin with,” she said. “These processes can delay treatment initiation for three to four months whereas minocycline can be started immediately,” she said.

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