Dilemma: When 1 Drug Treats 2 Diseases

By AMY DOCKSER MARCUS: The Wall Street Journal, HEALTH & WELLNESS, FEBRUARY 14, 2012.

A drug used to treat multiple sclerosis has also been shown to slow the progression of Lou Gehrig’s disease in mice, a nonprofit biotechnology company plans to announce Tuesday. Now, scientists face a dilemma.

Amy Dockser Marcus on Lunch Break discusses the growing trend of studying existing drugs for use in other illnesses and why it’s hard to get patients into clinical trials for drugs already on the market.

 

Many patients with Lou Gehrig’s disease, a fatal disorder formally known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, may want to try the drug on their own—even though there’s no evidence that it is safe or effective in patients with the disease.

 

But scientists want patients to enroll in a clinical trial, one that specifically examines how the drug, Gilenya, works in people with ALS. They hope to launch that trial later this year.

 

“We want to make sure we are not doing any harm. We want to do the trials correctly and quickly,” said Steven Perrin, president and chief executive officer of the ALS Therapy Development Institute, a Cambridge, Mass.-based group that is releasing preliminary findings on Gilenya.

When it comes to developing therapies for the disease, ‘for ALS patients, yesterday is not fast enough,’ says Steven Perrin, president and chief executive officer of the ALS Therapy Development Institute.

 

Still, Dr. Perrin acknowledged the difficulty in asking ALS patients to hold off while a clinical trial is conducted on a drug that could potentially ease their condition. When it comes to developing therapies for the disease, “for ALS patients, yesterday is not fast enough,” Dr. Perrin said.

 

This research dilemma is occurring with increasing frequency, as scientists and public-health officials look to already approved medicines to see if they can treat other illnesses.  Read Full Article