Results showed that 73% of patients who began the study on FTY720 5 mg remained free from relapses after three years, and 68% of those who began the study on FTY720 1.25 mg remained relapse-free. The figures after two years of treatment were 77% and 75% respectively. On the basis of comparable efficacy and a better safety profile, all patients have been transferred to FTY720 1.25 mg in the study extension.
The 36-month data also showed an average annualized relapse rate of 0.20, equivalent to one relapse in five years, while 89% of patients were free of the active brain lesions characteristic of MS as measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) three years after starting treatment.
The results were presented at the 60th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in Chicago, USA.
"These new data demonstrate the exciting potential for FTY720 to reduce relapse rates in MS patients with a convenient once-daily pill," said Professor Giancarlo Comi, Professor of Neurology at the University Vita-Salute San Raffaele in Milan, Italy. "An effective oral treatment would be a significant breakthrough in the management of MS. That is why these results are encouraging - because we are seeing substantial benefits of FTY720 maintained over time in this clinical trial."
FTY720 is a novel, once-daily, oral treatment in worldwide Phase III clinical development for the treatment of relapsing-remitting MS, the form of the disease that affects approximately 85% of people diagnosed with MS.
More than 2.5 million people worldwide are affected by MS, the most common non-traumatic cause of neurological disability in young people. Regulatory filings for FTY720 are expected in the US and EU before the end of 2009.
"The FTY720 Phase III program is the largest conducted in MS to date, and demonstrates our long-term commitment to the field of MS therapy," said Trevor Mundel, MD, Head of Global Development Functions at Novartis Pharma AG. "It is especially encouraging to see that FTY720 continues to demonstrate sustained efficacy by helping the majority of patients to remain free of relapses as the study progresses."
FTY720 has the potential to be the first in a new class of therapies for MS that act on inflammation by modulating sphingosine-1-phosphate receptors (S1P-R), reducing the number of inflammatory immune cells, called lymphocytes, from reaching the brain. In addition, FTY720 reaches the brain and S1P-Rs are present on central nervous system (CNS) tissue, so FTY720 may have a direct beneficial effect on MS within the CNS. This additional potential mechanism of action is supported by new preclinical data being presented at AAN,.
The Phase II study presented at AAN began with a six-month placebo-controlled phase in which 281 patients with relapsing MS received placebo, FTY720 1.25 mg or FTY720 5 mg once-daily. This was followed by a long-term extension in which all patients took FTY720. At the end of three years, 173 patients were in the extension, which is still ongoing. The study has been conducted in Canada and 10 European countries.
Results from the six-month placebo-controlled trial showed that FTY720 reduced relapse rates by more than 50% compared to placebo. Current first-line therapies for MS reduced relapse rates by 30-35% on average in two-year studies.
Among patients originally on placebo who converted to active therapy in the extension, 51% were free of relapses at three years. The figure at two years was 57%.
FTY720 has been generally well tolerated throughout the three years of the Phase II study and its extension, with the most common adverse events being nasopharyngitis, headache, fatigue and influenza. Increases in alanine aminotransferase (liver enzymes) were observed in 16% of patients. Dermatological screening of patients was implemented in the extension after a small number of cases of localized skin malignancies were reported.
Novartis continues to study FTY720 in an ongoing, blinded Phase III clinical trial program. This program includes comprehensive monitoring that will further assess and characterize the safety profile of FTY720.
MS is caused by the destruction of myelin, which helps neurons carry electrical signals in the brain. The disease causes problems with muscle control and strength, vision, balance, sensation and mental function. MS typically presents in relapsing forms involving acute self-limiting attacks of neurological dysfunction (or "relapses") followed by complete or partial restoration of functions.
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