OTC Flu Drug Tavist To Be Tested as MS Treatment
I think it would be interesting if the over-the-counter (OTC) flu drug Tavist proved to be helpful in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS). If all goes according to plan, the investigators running the clinical trial of Tavist in MS patients will have results by September 2014, but what do they hope to achieve?
First of all, the active ingredient in Tavist is an antihistamine called clemastine, and it works by inhibiting histamine (which causes allergic reactions such as watery eyes, itchy nose, runny nose, and cough) and acetylcholine, which assists in drying up fluids. Are these activities that could help with MS?
Apparently clemastine harbors other properties. In a previous cell culture test, it appeared that clemastine may promote the activity of oligodendrocytes, which are central nervous system cells that make myelin. This fatty protein coats and protects nerve cells (neurons) so they can efficiently transmit signals.
In people who have MS, however, the myelin is damaged or destroyed, resulting in demyelination, which causes problems with the transmission of nerve signals and results in the symptoms associated with the disease, such as poor coordination, muscle weakness, blurry vision, numbness, dizziness, and fatigue. Oligodendrocytes themselves also can be destroyed.
The investigators with the clinical trial, which is sponsored by the University of California San Francisco, will be studying 50 individuals who have minimal to moderate disability associated with relapsing-remitting MS. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial is currently recruiting.
Study participants will be given either oral clemastine (4 mg twice daily) or placebo for 3 months, followed by a cross-over for 2 months. Researchers will measure changes to myelin, fatigue, and fluctuation in disability scores on EDSS.
One interesting fact about clemastine is that side effects of its use among people who take the drug for allergies are dizziness, stomach upset, blurry vision, difficulty walking, drowsiness, and fatigue. Whether patients in the study will suffer these same adverse reactions—and how they may impact any potential benefits of the study—remain to be seen.
The Tavist and MS study is just one of dozens of clinical trials currently recruiting, underway, or in the planning stages for multiple sclerosis. Anyone who has MS who is interested in participating in a clinical trial should visit the clinicaltrials.gov website and also consult with their physician.
MedPageToday, Feb 6, 2014