Minocycline acne drug may offer new treatment for multiple sclerosis

brain scan of patient with MS

The acne drug minocycline has been shown to slow the progress of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) in people experiencing their first symptoms of the condition, a study[1]
published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found.

Between January 2009 and July 2013, 142 patients at 12 Canadian clinics who had had their first demyelinating MS symptoms, such as muscle weakness or paralysis, within the previous 180 days were randomised to receive either 100mg of minocycline, given orally twice daily, or placebo. The pills were continued for 24 months unless a diagnosis of MS was established. The mean age of the patients was 35.8 years and 68.3% were women.

After six months, the unadjusted risk of a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis was 61.0% in the placebo group and 33.4% in the minocycline group — a difference of 27.6 percentage points (95% confidence interval, 11.4 to 43.9; P=0.001) — which fell to 18.5 percentage points (95% CI, 3.7 to 33.3; P=0.01), after adjusting for other influencing factors. At 24 months there was no significant difference between the two groups in the risk of MS.

“Based on these findings, neurologists will be able to prescribe minocycline for people experiencing their first symptoms of demyelination if an MRI suggests the cause will likely prove to be MS,” said lead author Luanne Metz from the department of clinical neurosciences at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), University of Calgary, Canada.

Minocycline is also substantially cheaper than current therapies for relapsing-remitting MS; in Canada, around $600 per year versus $20,000 to $40,000 per year.


[1] Metz L, Li D, Traboulsee A et al. Trial of minocycline in a clinically isolated syndrome of multiple sclerosis. N Engl J Med 2017;376:2122-33. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1608889

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, June 2017;():DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20202916

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