A new drug for multiple sclerosis (MS) is working better at preventing flare-ups as compared to already existing medication for the disease.

MS is a disorder affecting the nervous system. It occurs when the immune system attacks the body's own protective sheath that protects the nerve fibers of the brain and the spine. Patients of MS normally suffer from muscle weakness, numbness, balance, and coordination issues, as well as vision problems.

In the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, lead researcher Dr Stephen Hauser, Weill Institute for Neurosciences director at the University of California, revealed that the new approach on the MS drug was greatly effective in combating symptoms of the most common form of MS. Many patients suffer from a flare of symptoms, which then eases, but the disease is known to steadily progress over time, and this relapsing-remitting form is the common type of MS that patients deal with.

As Hauser explained, the cells that play a key role in MS is the B cells. For a long time, doctors have been prescribing drugs, like Rituximab and Ocrevus, which deplete the number of B cells in the blood.

The new drug, Ofatumumab, used by Hauser and his team in the clinical trial, found that it lowered annualised relapses significantly. The researchers observed 2,000 patients who were suffering from relapsing-remitting MS.

Half of the participants were assigned to have ofatumumab injections monthly, and the other half took Aubagio, an oral medication for MS.

Accordingly, in a span of 18 months, the researchers found that those who took ofatumumab fared better. There was a reduced rate of relapses and about 33 percent had a lower chance of experiencing worsening MS. In the sixth-month, eight percent of ofatumumab participants got worse, while the Aubagio patients had a higher number at 12 percent.

Hauser was very optimistic, noting that having more treatment options for MS patients is a good thing. He mentioned that it was also very encouraging for many patients, U.S. News & World Report stated.

Laboratory trials of medicines Photo: Pixabay

Novartis funded the trial and it has already submitted its application to the U.S. FDA for the approval of ofatumumab as an MS drug. The drugmaker revealed that it expects the agency's decision by September.