Oral Medication Could Help MS Patients Walk Better
There was a story last night on our local news about a woman with multiple sclerosis who has regained her ability to walk because of a new oral medication. This new medication is called Ampyra, and it apparently works by stopping the potassium leakage from the nerve fibers. And it's an oral medication, which is great news for the MS patients who already take shots as their major treatment.
What happens with multiple sclerosis is that the body's immune system mistakenly attacks myelin, the protective coating around nerve fibers. When the myelin is damaged or lost, potassium leaks out, and messages from the brain to the other parts of the body can be weakened or distorted. Difficulty walking is one common result. Ampyra is thought to block these potassium leaks, so the signals get through and walking is easier. It's not potassium, it just stops the leaks. It's been shown to work that way in animal trials, so they're pretty sure that's what is happening in humans.
The website for the drug says that Ampyra has the same active ingredient as compound 4-aminopyridine (fampridine, 4-AP), so if you're taking that compound drug, you must stop. The web site is full of warnings of seizure and kidney problems if too much Ampyra is taken, as well as those being possible side effects of taking the drug.
I do not know for sure the cost of Ampyra, but a letter to the editor of The National Multiple Sclerosis Society's magazine, Momentum, said it runs about $ 1,000 per month. I do not know if the manufacturer offers help to patients who can not afford that. I do know, however, that the cost of the compound 4-aminopyridine here in the Portland, Oregon area is just over $ 70 per month. Certainly something to look at.
The information on the web site says that Ampyra treatment is appropriate for patients with "the major types of MS." I'm not sure what they mean; my husband has primary progressive MS, and his doctor did prescribe the compound 4-aminopyridine. Primary progressive multiple sclerosis affects only about 10% of the 400,000 patients in the United States, so I'm not sure it's "major."
My husband is not sure whether the aminopyridine helps his walking or not. He started taking low-dose naltrexone at about the same time. Although the LDN seems to primarily help heal lesions, at least according to some of the forums, he does not really know which drug has made him feel better. The Ampyra literature says that about 35% of the patients taking Ampyra noticed they were able to walk faster. It takes about 6 weeks of taking the medication to notice a change.
Ampyra is a pill that's taken twice a day, with approximately 12 hours between doses. It's not meant to replace infusion or injection therapies, but rather it's an additional medication specific to helping patients walk faster and more easily.
It has helped some patients, and it's certainly worth talking to your doctor about. And it is encouraging to see any kind of new medication for helping multiple sclerosis patients.