Treatment options currently are limited for people suffering from secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. However, an OHSU pilot study suggests over-the-counter antioxidant lipoic acid holds promise in improving patients’ lives.

The randomized double-blind study involved 51 participants who completed the two-year trial. Twenty-seven people were given a 1,200-milogram daily dose of lipoic acid, with the remaining 24 participants given a placebo. Researchers are using the findings from the pilot trial to design the expanded multi-site clinical trial to begin later this year in Portland and other sites that have yet to be finalized.

“These are high doses,” said lead author Rebecca Spain, M.D., M.S.P.H., an assistant professor of neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine. “And while it seems safe, we won’t know whether it actually improves the lives of people with MS until we can replicate the results in the pilot study through a much bigger clinical trial. Fortunately, we’re going to be able to answer that question with the participation of kind volunteers.”

MS is a chronic condition that affects an estimated 2.3 million people worldwide. In MS, the sheath covering nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord becomes damaged, slowing or blocking electrical signals from the brain reaching the eyes, muscles and other parts of the body.

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