MS Society supports clinical trial on lipoic acid for the treatment of progressive MS

Background: There is a need for treatment options in progressive MS. Lipoic acid, an antioxidant, has shown promise in animal models of MS and a small clinical trial.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease affecting over 2 million people worldwide. Those with progressive forms of the disease may have significant disability, poorer quality of life, and will utilize a higher number of health resources. Currently, there is only one approved disease-modifying therapy for progressive MS which is limited to early primary-progressive MS. A therapeutic goal of an effective treatment for progressive MS is to slow or stop disability progression, leading to overall reduced disability, sustained independence, and improved quality of life.

Lipoic acid (LA) is an inexpensive, natural, antioxidant with multiple biological effects that have shown benefit in the disease processes associated with progressive MS in both animal models of MS and small human trials. LA had a beneficial effect as seen on brain MRIs and maintaining walking speed in a pilot trial of LA in secondary progressive MS.

Clinical Trial: The safety and efficacy of lipoic acid will be investigated. The Ottawa Hospital will be recruiting participants for this trial.

The MS Society of Canada is partnering with the National MS Society (U.S.) to fund a clinical trial to determine if the oral supplement, LA, is an effective and safe treatment for progressive forms of multiple sclerosis.

The research team, led by Dr. Rebecca Spain, a U.S. based researcher and clinician, at Oregon Health & Science University will enroll 118 participants with progressive forms of MS across multiple sites in North America. In Canada, Dr. Mark Freedman, from the Ottawa Hospital and University of Ottawa, will be recruiting participants for the clinical trial. Participants will be randomly assigned to either LA or placebo (mock drug) which they will take for two years. During the study, they will be monitored for safety, as well as, changes in walking and falls, neurological exams, and brain MRIs. The results of the study are anticipated to be ready in late 2021. The researchers will analyze the data to determine if LA made a meaningful clinical difference, including if it slowed the rate of brain atrophy. If results are positive, LA may become an inexpensive, safe and easily accessible treatment for progressive forms of MS. 

Comment: Although not fully understood, there appear to be multiple ways that the central nervous system is affected by MS. Therefore, treating all forms of MS in the future may involve a combination of therapies to address the multiple causes of damage. LA may prove to be effective in treating progressive aspects of MS which is of value to all people with MS, at any stage of their disease course. If shown to effectively treat both primary and secondary progressive MS in this current multicenter trial, LA could become a safe and low-cost treatment for the many people without treatment options for progressive MS.

Additional information relating to recruitment can be found on the FAQ.