New MS drug Ampyra | Questionable effectiveness, high cost


Ampyra proports to be able to help patients with MS improve their mobility. Image from Flickr.

The first and only oral drug intended to improve walking in multiple sclerosis patients, Ampyra, was approved by the FDA in January. Acorda Therapeutics, the maker of the drug, has presented numerous studies about the effectiveness of Ampyra. After several months in general release, Ampyra has seen slow but steady sales but faced questions about effectiveness and side effects.

What Ampyra is used for

Ampyra is a sustained-release Fampridine SR pill. Ampyra is intended to block some potassium in the body and restore nerve impulses. Though Ampyra has been studied for spinal cord injuries, it has been approved to help patients with Multiple Sclerosis walk more easily and more quickly. The annual cost of Ampyra is about $10,000 to $15,000 a year. At a cost that may require no faxing payday loans to pay for the drug, what are the risks and benefits of Ampyra?

The uses of Ampyra

Ampyra is a drug that has shown to help improve walking speed in MS patients. About 35 percent of patients taking Ampyra improve their walking speed. The original studies used by Acorda Theraputics to get the drug approved relied on twice-a-day doses. Ampyra as it is sold in the United States market is a once-a-day sustained release tablet. Ampyra is intended to be used as an “additional” treatment, in conjunction with other MS drugs.

The numerical effectiveness of Ampyra

While studies have shown that Ampyra is effective, the percentages in the study appear to be only barely statistically significant. The group of patients in the double-blind study taking the drug in Ampyra did improve their walking speed. Patients were able to walk 25 feet between half and .88 seconds more quickly. While this is a statistically significant improvement, it is only barely so. For MS patients that may be declining, though, that improvement could be very helpful.

The side effects of Ampyra

Ampyra is sold with significant side effect warnings. Almost 15 percent of patients experienced urinary tract infections, and insomnia and dizziness are also very common side effects. Patients taking Ampyra also reported relapses in symptoms almost twice as often as patients taking a placebo. Fampridine was originally developed as a bird poison, and it has also been shown to cause severe seizures if one takes twice the recommended dose.

Sales of Ampyra

In the first quarter that Ampyra was FDA-approved for sales in the United States, Acordia reported $3.4 million in sales. The drug was first shipped to pharmacies on March 1, 2010. About 2,000 prescriptions were written for Ampyra by April 29. The drug is expected to continue increasing sales. The real question, though, is whether the dangers, health care costs and side effects of Ampyra are worth the 35 percent chance of walking 25 feet one second faster.

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