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MS treatment in pill form hailed

Multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferers might soon be saved the need for regular injections with the development of a pill that treats the disease, it has been revealed.

Cladribine, also known as Leustat, is a tablet form of a drug already used to treat certain types of leukaemia. Patients taking cladribine as a pill would no longer have to receive often uncomfortable injections that can lead to side-effects including anaemia, bruising, bleeding, and infections.

Trials in the US have shown that taking just a few cladribine pills a year could cut the chance of relapse in patients suffering from the most common form of MS by more than 50%.

Relapsing-remitting MS is suffered by 65% of patients and is characterised by alternating periods during which symptoms come and go.

A spokesman for the MS Society charity described the research as a "huge step forward".

An application to license the treatment for use in the UK is expected imminently. Whether or not NHS patients have access to it depends on the drug getting a green light from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) which judges the cost effectiveness of new treatments.

However, the fact that cladribine is already used for a different condition could speed up its availability.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

MS Society