An FDA panel is looking into the possibility that a new drug named Ampriva is helping people with Multiple Sclerosis. The drug is a reconfigured form of fampridine, which was originally used as a bird poison.
The Food and Drug Administration is looking at reports that the medication has helped people with MS actually walk with the help of the drug.
It's possible that the FDA will put this on the fast track because of the positive reports.
The new drug is different because it improves the nervous system function in people suffering from MS, and right now, the best that MS drugs can do is keep the progression of the disease from getting worse, and not change the already damaged nerves.
Ampriva is supposed to help protect the myelin which is damaged in people with MS. That damage is what affects movement and walking in some people with the disease.
So far, more than one-third of the people taking the new drug have been able to walk faster.
Dr. Andrew D. Goodman, director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at the University of Rochester and the lead investigator in the clinical studies, said that "this can mean things like getting to the bathroom on time before having an accident, or getting across the street before the light changes."
Despite the obvious improvements, however, MS patients continue to get worse over time, Goodman's research shows. The results are slight at the moment.
Dr. Goodman says, "Things that people have described to me are, 'Look, I can get around the supermarket without having to hold on to the cart all the time,' or 'Just getting up that step between the garage and the house gives me independence.' "
The bird poision has been known to cause seizures and convulsions at high dosages.