Neurology Central

Common drug could aid reversal of optic neuropathy in Multiple Sclerosis patients

A common antihistamine, termed clemastine fumarate, may help to reverse chronic vision damage in individuals with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a new finding presented at the American Academy of Neurology 68th Annual Meeting (15 – 21st April 2016, Vancouver, Canada) has revealed.

“This study is exciting because it is the first to demonstrate possible repair of that protective coating in people with chronic demyelination from MS,” commented study author Ari Green (University of California San Francisco, USA).

The study was carried out over a 5 month period and included 50 individuals with MS. Participants were on average 40 years of age and had had MS for an average of 5 years, exhibiting mild disability. All individuals exhibited signs of stable chronic optic neuropathy.

Participants took part in a range of vision tests at the start and the end of the study. For the visual evoked potential test the time for transmission of signal from the retina to the visual cortex was recorded – to qualify for the study individuals had to demonstrate a delay in transmission time beyond 118 milliseconds in at least one eye, as well as an adequate number of nerve fibers to reinsulate.

Across the first 3 months of the study, participants were either given the antihistamine clemastine fumarate or a placebo. During the following 2 months those initially given the drug then received the placebo and those receiving the placebo received the drug.

Findings highlighted reductions in delays to transmission time by on average two milliseconds in each eye per patient who received the antihistamine.

“While the improvement in vision appears modest, this study is promising because it is the first time a drug has been shown to possibly reverse the damage done by MS,” explained Green.

The team do caution that further research with a larger study cohort is needed before any recommendations of clemastine fumarate for patients with MS can be made and that other novel drugs currently in development could provide even greater recovery. However, the study’s findings help to grow the body of evidence for future MS studies looking to enhance the body’s innate mechanisms of repair.

Source: American Academy of Neurology press release