BARCELONA -- After a first demyelinating event, a broad-spectrum tetracycline antibiotic may prevent conversion to multiple sclerosis (MS), researchers reported here.
In a phase III multicenter Canadian study, patients randomized to minocycline had a significant 44.6% relative risk reduction in progressing to MS over 6 months, reported Luanne Metz, MD, of the University of Calgary, at the European Committee for the Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis meeting.
"We feel that this should be considered a treatment for MS," Metz said. "If you treat people with a simple prescription, you don't need to do complex paperwork or get insurance going. It's a well tolerated drug that requires no safety monitoring whatsoever."
She said she believes a typical regimen of the drug would cost $500 to $600 annually in Canada (about $387 to $460 U.S).
Current therapies work better if they're given to patients soon after their first clinical demyelinating event. However, insurance coverage for therapies varies by country and region, which may result in treatment delays until patients have a second clinical attack.
In addition, currently available oral therapies may not be ideal because of safety concerns.
Minocycline is an oral antibiotic with a recognized safety profile, widely available, and can be obtained in a lower-cost generic formulation, Metz said. It has many immune-modulating properties, including blocking the transmigration of leukocytes and reducing the activity of activated microglia, she noted.