Sodium channel blockers for neuroprotection in multiple sclerosis


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune, inflammatory, demyelinating disease of the central nervous system (CNS), which can occur in many parts of the CNS and result in a wide range of symptoms including sensory impairment, fatigue, walking or balance problems, visual impairment, vertigo and cognitive disabilities. At present, the most commonly used MS treatments are immunomodulating agents, but they have little effect on the disability. Experimental studies show that sodium (Na+) accumulation leads to intracellular calcium (Ca2+) release, and the increased calcium levels can activate nitric oxide synthase and harmful proteases and lipases. These factors contribute to axonal injury in people with MS. If partial blockade of voltage-gated sodium channels could result in neuroprotection, this would be of benefit for preventing disability progression in these people. Neuroprotection is emerging as a potentially important strategy for preventing disability progression in people with MS.


To assess the efficacy and safety of sodium channel blockers for neuroprotection in people with MS to prevent the occurrence of disability and alleviate the burden of the disease.

Search methods

We searched the Cochrane Multiple Sclerosis and Rare Diseases of the Central Nervous System Group Specialised Register (27 August 2015) which, among other sources, contains references from the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (Cochrane Library 2015, Issue (8), MEDLINE (1966 to August 2015), EMBASE (1974 to August 2015), Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) (1981 to August 2015), Latin American and Caribbean Health Science Information Database (LILACS) (1982 to August 2015), ( and the World Health Organization (WHO) International Clinical Trials Registry Portal (ICTRP) search portal ( In addition, we searched four Chinese databases, ongoing trials registers and relevant reference lists.

Selection criteria

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that examined sodium channel blockers used alone or as an add-on to any approved treatments for MS.

Data collection and analysis

Two review authors independently selected trials, assessed trial quality and extracted the data.

Main results

Only one study evaluating lamotrigine in secondary progressive MS was eligible. One hundred and twenty people were included, 61 randomly assigned to lamotrigine treatment and 59 to placebo treatment. The average age of participants in the two groups was 51.9 years and 50.1 years, respectively. The proportion of male participants was 27.5%. The period of follow-up was 2 years. No data were found on disability progression and people who experienced relapses. No significant differences were found for serious adverse events between the two groups. Treatment with lamotrigine was associated with more rashes (20% vs 5%, P value 0.03) and transient, dose-related deterioration of mobility (66% vs 34%, P value 0.001) than placebo. Furthermore, no significant difference between the two groups was found in the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measurements of cerebral atrophy, Expanded Disability Status Score changes, Multiple Sclerosis Functional Composite score changes. This study was judged to be at high risk of bias. This review will be updated when the three ongoing studies we identified are completed.

Authors’ conclusions

The quality of evidence was judged to be very low due to the low number of available studies and included participants. There is a lack of evidence to address the review question on the efficacy of sodium channel blockers for people with MS. Assessment of the three ongoing trials might change this conclusion. Further high-quality large scale studies are needed.

via The Cochrane Library – Yang – Wiley Online Library.

Alemtuzumab use in neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders: a brief case series

Alemtuzumab is an anti-CD52 monoclonal antibody recently licensed for use in relapsing–remitting multiple sclerosis. Here, we report our experience of its use in neuromyelitis optica (NMO) spectrum disorders. A retrospective case review of patients treated with alemtuzumab in Cambridge, UK, was conducted to identify those who fulfil the criteria for NMO spectrum disorder. Three cases were identified. Case 1, 9-year-old female, presented with transverse myelitis and bilateral optic neuritis, with one lower medullary and several longitudinally extensive cord lesions. Despite immunosuppression including two courses of alemtuzumab, she continued to relapse, was wheelchair bound and registered blind by age 12, and died at age 18. Case 2, 41-year-old female, presented with bilateral optic neuritis and transverse myelitis with longitudinally extensive cervical cord lesions. Despite three courses of alemtuzumab, she had five relapses with visual impairment and new cord lesions. She later developed tumefactive white matter lesions and died aged 51. Case 3, 31-year-old female, presented with transverse myelitis with longitudinally extensive cervical cord lesions and positive aquaporin-4 antibody. After one course of alemtuzumab, she relapsed with 4 episodes of myelitis with new enhancing lesions and accumulating disability. She became relapse free after rituximab and mycophenolate mofetil. From this case series, we conclude that alemtuzumab failed to prevent disabling relapses and poor outcome in NMO. We hypothesise that rituximab is more effective, as in case 3, because it causes much more prolonged B lymphocyte depletion than alemtuzumab. We therefore caution against the use of alemtuzumab in NMO.

via Journal of Neurology

HCV-Related Central and Peripheral Nervous System Demyelinating Disorders

Chronic infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV) is associated with a large spectrum of extrahepatic manifestations (EHMs), mostly immunologic/rheumatologic in nature owing to B-cell proliferation and clonal expansion. Neurological complications are thought to be immune-mediated or secondary to invasion of neural tissues by HCV, as postulated in transverse myelitis and encephalopathic forms. Primarily axonal neuropathies, including sensorimotor polyneuropathy, large or small fiber sensory neuropathy, motor polyneuropathy, mononeuritis, mononeuritis multiplex, or overlapping syndrome, represent the most common neurological complications of chronic HCV infection. In addition, a number of peripheral demyelinating disorders are encountered, such as chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, the Lewis-Sumner syndrome, and cryoglobulin-associated polyneuropathy with demyelinating features. The spectrum of demyelinating forms also includes rare cases of iatrogenic central and peripheral nervous system disorders, occurring during treatment with pegylated interferon. Herein, we review HCV-related demyelinating conditions, and disclose the novel observation on the significantly increased frequency of chronic demyelinating neuropathy with anti-myelin-associated glycoprotein antibodies in a cohort of 59 consecutive patients recruited at our institution. We also report a second case of neuromyelitis optica with serum IgG autoantibody against the water channel aquaporin-4. The prompt recognition of these atypical and underestimated complications of HCV infection is of crucial importance in deciding which treatment option a patient should be offered.

via Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets

Stratification and monitoring of natalizumab-associated progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy risk: recommendations from an expert group

The use of natalizumab for highly active relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) is influenced by the occurrence of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). Through measurement of the anti-JCV antibody index, and in combination with the presence or absence of other known risk factors, it may be possible to stratify patients with MS according to their risk of developing PML during treatment with natalizumab and detect early suspected PML using MRI including a diffusion-weighted imaging sequence. This paper describes a practical consensus guideline for treating neurologists, based on current evidence, for the introduction into routine clinical practice of anti-JCV antibody index testing of immunosuppressant-naïve patients with MS, either currently being treated with, or initiating, natalizumab, based on their anti-JCV antibody status. Recommendations for the frequency and type of MRI screening in patients with varying index-associated PML risks are also discussed. This consensus paper presents a simple and pragmatic algorithm to support the introduction of anti-JCV antibody index testing and MRI monitoring into standard PML safety protocols, in order to allow some JCV positive patients who wish to begin or continue natalizumab treatment to be managed with a more individualised analysis of their PML risk.

via Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

Association of Vitamin D Levels With Multiple Sclerosis Activity and Progression in Patients Receiving Interferon Beta-1b

Importance  Low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) levels are associated with an increased risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) as well as with increased disease activity and rate of progression in clinically isolated syndromes and early MS.

Objective  To assess the association between 25(OH)D and disease course and prognosis in patients with relapsing-remitting MS treated with interferon beta-1b.

Design, Setting, and Participants  We conducted a prospective cohort study assessing 25(OH)D levels and subsequent MS disease course and progression characterized by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and clinical end points. The study took place between November 2003 and June 2005; data analysis was performed between June 2013 and December 2014. The study was conducted among participants in the Betaferon Efficacy Yielding Outcomes of a New Dose (BEYOND) study, a large, phase 3, prospective, multicenter, blinded, randomized clinical trial. Patients were monitored for at least 2 years. Clinic visits were scheduled every 3 months, and MRI was performed at baseline and annually thereafter. Eligible patients included 1482 participants randomized to receive 250 μg or 500 μg of interferon-1b with at least 2 measurements of 25(OH)D obtained 6 months apart.

Exposures  Serum 25(OH)D measurements were performed at baseline, 6 months, and 12 months.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Main outcomes included cumulative number of new active lesions (T2 lesions and gadolinium acetate–enhancing lesions), change in normalized brain volume, relapse rate, and progression determined by the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). Statistical analyses were adjusted for age, sex, randomized treatment, region, disease duration, and baseline EDSS score.

Results  Overall, average 25(OH)D levels in 1482 patients were significantly inversely correlated with the cumulative number of new active lesions between baseline and the last MRI, with a 50.0-nmol/L increase in serum 25(OH)D levels associated with a 31% lower rate of new lesions (relative rate [RR], 0.69; 95% CI, 0.55-0.86; P = .001). The lowest rate of new lesions was observed among patients with 25(OH)D levels greater than 100.0 nmol/L (RR, 0.53; 95% CI, 0.37-0.78; P = .002). No significant associations were found between 25(OH)D levels and change in brain volume, relapse rates, or EDSS scores. Results were consistent following adjustment for HLA-DRB1*15 or vitamin D–binding protein status.

Conclusions and Relevance  Among patients with MS treated with interferon beta-1b, higher 25(OH)D levels were associated with lower rates of MS activity observed on MRI. Results for brain atrophy and clinical progression were more equivocal.

via JAMA Neurology

A comparison of the brief international cognitive assessment for multiple sclerosis and the brief repeatable battery in multiple sclerosis patients


Recently, a Brief International Cognitive Assessment for Multiple Sclerosis (BICAMS) has been developed as an international and standardized brief cognitive test, which is easily performed in everyday clinical practice for neuropsychological assessment in multiple sclerosis (MS). However, we need to gather more information about this tool compared to other neuropsychological batteries. The aim of our study is to compare the performance of BICAMS and Brief Repeatable Battery (BRB) in MS subjects.


Tests of the BRB and BICAMS were administered to MS patients recruited from 11 Italian MS centres. Cognitive impairment (CI) was defined as the failure on at least two tests (scores below the fifth percentile) on the BRB and as the failure on at least one test of the BICAMS. The agreement between the performances on the two batteries was assessed through Cohen’s K statistic. Finally we calculated the effects sizes for each test of the two batteries using Cohen’s d.


The two batteries were administered to 192 MS patients (142 women, 50 men; mean age 41.4 ± 10.8 years, mean education 12.3 ± 3.5 years). Mean scores of patients were lower compared to those of healthy subjects in all the cognitive measures examined. Forty-six MS patients were identified as impaired and 48 as unimpaired on both of the batteries, when the Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT) was included in the analysis. Cohen’s K statistic was 0.46 which corresponds to a moderate accord. If the SDMT was excluded from the BRB, 37 MS patients were identified as impaired and 57 as unimpaired on both of the batteries. Cohen’s K statistic was 0.3 which corresponds to a poor accord. The SDMT, the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT) 3 and 2 yielded higher d values (SDMT 0.83, PASAT 3 0.65, PASAT 2 0.84).


This study confirms the feasibility of BICAMS in everyday clinical practice for the identification of CI and highlights the good psychometric properties of the SDMT.

via BMC Neurology

Use of Accelerometers to Measure Real-Life Physical Activity in Ambulatory Individuals with Multiple Sclerosis

Background: Multiple sclerosis (MS) may negatively affect individuals’ participation in physical activity (PA). We used accelerometers to determine PA level in individuals with MS with varying degrees of disability as measured by the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) during regular daily activities.

Methods: Participants wore an accelerometer from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. for 7 consecutive days. Activity counts recorded during this period were analyzed in 1-minute epochs and categorized into one of four PA levels: light, moderate, hard, and very hard.

Results: The study cohort comprised 13 patients with MS and 12 controls. There were significant negative correlations for minutes spent in PA and EDSS measures on weekdays (r = −0.61), weekend (r = −0.64), and full week (r = −0.61) and number of steps taken on weekdays (r = −0.56), weekend (r = −0.80), and full-week average (r = −0.68). Significant positive correlations were found for minutes spent in light PA and EDSS score (r = 0.69). Significant negative correlations were found for minutes spent in moderate and hard PA and EDSS score. No significant difference was seen between the MS group and controls on any parameters (P > .05).

Conclusions: This study showed that accelerometers can be used to objectively quantify PA levels in individuals with MS with different disability levels. This cohort demonstrated that the amount of PA is inversely proportional to the degree of physical disability. Collected data revealed not only the amount but also the intensity of PA performed in real-life circumstances.

via International Journal of MS Care