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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Neurologists Anticipate Increased Use of Novartis’ Gilenya and Biogen Idec’s Tysabri over the Next Six Months Despite Safety Concerns Surrounding Both Products


March 30, 2011

EXTON, Pa.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Physician trial and market share of Novartis’ Gilenya, the first oral disease modifying agent (DMA) for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), have both increased significantly over the past quarter, according to a recent report by BioTrends. Despite uptake, neurologists report dissatisfaction with Novartis’ company support – an attribute that seems to have more impact on neurologists’ choice of DMA than they state. Use of Extavia, Novartis’s other DMA, has stabilized just over a year after launch with no anticipated changes in prescribing over the next six months. Gilenya share, on the other hand, is anticipated to increase substantially although safety concerns remain a primary obstacle for the newest DMA. The impact of Gilenya uptake is expected to be split across shares of Biogen Idec’s Avonex, Bayer’s Betaseron, Teva’s Copaxone and Pfizer/EMD Serono’s Rebif. While neurologists currently state an overall preference for Tysabri, long term safety concerns continue to hold them back from prescribing more of the brand — thus, the commercial availability of a JC antibody assay, which could help identify appropriate patients, is perceived as a possible game changer for Tysabri.
Neurologists continue to report a high unmet need for products with neuroprotective effects and significant impact on disability progression. Among the seven therapies in development that were profiled in the research, interest was highest for Teva’s laquinimod and Biogen Idec’s BG-12. Interestingly, much of the recent surge in interest in BG-12 is being driven by Gilenya early adopters.
One year post-launch, most neurologists have prescribed Acorda’s Ampyra (dalfampridine). With greater familiarity and usage, a clearer picture is emerging about the average discontinuation rate and where the product may have room for growth. On the other hand, trial, usage, and familiarity of Avanir’s Nuedexta, a recently launched agent for the treatment of pseudobulbar affect, remains limited following just weeks of commercial availability. While awareness of the four surveyed MS-related symptomatic products in development is low, neurologists report moderate levels of interest in the products and believe Otsuka’s Sativex, an agent for the treatment of spasticity, would provide the greatest clinical value to their practice.
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Stem Cells From Placentas Show Potential in Treating Heart Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and More



BY NEAL UNGERLEIDERTue Mar 29, 2011
An Israeli biotechnology firm is betting that stem cells harvested from human placentas can help treat a host of diseases--and strengthen muscles in the process.
 An  Israeli biotechnology firm is harvesting stem cells from human placentas that appear to successfully treat multiple sclerosis, diabetes, alcoholism, and even sports-related injuries. Pluristem Therapeutics processes stem cells obtained from donors' placentas into a variety of ready-to-use medications, which is more than just cool science--it's also an indication of where biotech will be headed over the next decade.

Pluristem CEO Zami Aberman told Fast Company that the stem cells obtained from "one placenta can help treat 10,000 people." The company's latest project is a preclinical trial at New York University to test whether placenta-derived stem cells can be used to treat diabetic foot ulcers. Diabetic foot ulcers occur in more than 10% of all patients with the disease and frequently lead to amputation. Doctors at NYU are hoping that the stem cells can help successfully grow new blood vessels from pre-existing blood vessels in patients' feet and to help aid in tissue regeneration.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Potential New Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis


Posted on: Tuesday, 29 March 2011, 

(Ivanhoe Newswire) – Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a common, and usually disabling autoimmune disease that can lead to loss of sensory function, voluntary movement, vision and bladder control. Scientists may have discovered a way to reverse this disease if caught early enough.


An autoimmue disease results when the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. MS is a serious condition in which nerve-cell projections, or axons, in the brain and the spinal cord are destroyed as a result of misdirected inflammatory reactions. It is often characterized by an unpredictable course, with periods of remission being interrupted by episodes of relapse.

It is commonly thought that the primary target of MS is the myelin sheath, a membrane surrounding axons that increases the speed of a nerve signal. However, damage to nerve fibers is also a central process.



A team of researchers led by LMU Munich Professor Martin Kerschensteiner of the Medical Center of the University of Munich and Professor Thomas Misgeld from the Technical University of Munich has now been able to explain how the damage is inflicted. Their results show that the inflammatory reaction can induce a previously unknown type of axonal degeneration, which they call "focal axonal degeneration" (FAD). In an animal model of MS, this process is reversible if it is recognized and treated early, so the researchers believe that it could serve as a potential target for therapeutic intervention.



"We used an animal model in which a subset of axons is genetically marked with a fluorescent protein, allowing us to observe them directly by fluorescence microscopy," Misgeld was quoted as saying. After inoculation with myelin, these mice begin to show MS-like symptoms, but the researchers found that many axons showing early signs of damage were still surrounded by an intact myelin sheath, suggesting that loss of myelin is not a prerequisite for axonal damage.
Instead FAD is responsible for the primary damage. FAD can damage axons that are still wrapped in their protective myelin sheath. This process could also help explain some of the spontaneous remissions of symptoms that are characteristic of MS. "In its early stages, axonal damage is spontaneously reversible," Kerschensteiner was quoted as saying. "This finding gives us a better understanding of the disease, but it may also point to a new route to therapy, as processes that are in principle reversible should be more susceptible to treatment."


"In our animal model, at least, we can neutralize these radicals and this allows acutely damaged axons to recover," Kerschensteiner said. The characteristic signs of the newly discovered process of degeneration can also be identified in brain tissue from patients with MS, suggesting that the basic principle of treatment used in the mouse model might also be effective in humans.


"Before appropriate therapeutic strategies can be developed, we need to clarify exactly how the damage arises at the molecular level," Kerschensteiner said. "We also want to investigate whether similar mechanisms play a role in later chronic stages of multiple sclerosis."


SOURCE: Nature Medicine, published online March 27, 2011



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Report Identifies Cluster areas for MS in Ohio



Wellington has been designated as a disease cluster area for multiple sclerosis, according to a report released yesterday by the National Resources Defense Council.
A 1998 study by state and local health departments found residents of Wellington were three times more likely to develop multiple sclerosis than the rest of the country, the report said. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found that there had been a release of chemical contaminants in the environment surrounding a former foundry, the LESCO facility, and the still operating Forest City Technologies plant.
The LESCO facility was a distributor and formulator of fertilizer, and Forest City Technologies manufactures seals and gaskets for the automotive industry. Although the causes of MS are unknown, the disease is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Wellington is one of four confirmed disease clusters in Ohio. A fifth potential cluster is currently under investigation. The others are Clyde (childhood cancer), Marysville (leukemia), Marion (leukemia) and Middletown (brain cancer), which is still being investigated.
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