A medication usually used for epilepsy is showing promise in preventing nerve damage in those with multiple sclerosis.
An anti-convulsant drug used to treat epilepsy may also prevent nerve damage in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), research has shown.
The drug phenytoin was found to slow the progress of optic neuritis, a symptom of MS that causes nerves carrying information from the eye to the brain to become inflamed and damaged.
Scientists believe it could have a similar protective effect throughout the brain.
Currently there are no neuroprotective drugs available for MS sufferers, whose nerve fibres are attacked by their own immune system.
In the study, 86 people with acute optic neuritis were either given phenytoin or an inactive placebo “dummy drug” for three months.
At the end of the trial, the group who received the genuine drug had on average 30% less damage to the nerve fibre layer at the back of the eye.
Lead researcher Dr Raj Kapoor, from University College London’s Institute of Neurology, said: “These are promising results and if our findings are confirmed by larger, Phase III trials, could lead to a new treatment that protects nerves from the damage caused both in optic neuritis and throughout the central nervous system in other attacks of MS.”
The findings are reported in the journal The Lancet Neurology.
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