New Drug with URMC Roots Improves Mobility for MS Patients

A new treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) that improves mobility for some patients earned FDA approval in January 2010. Neurologists at the University of Rochester Medical Center have studied the medication dalfampridine ( Ampyra) as an MS treatment more than 10 years.

First available in March 2010, Ampyra has been shown to enhance mobility for some patients with MS. Specifically, it improves gait, or walking speed over a measured distance, in more than one third of MS patients.

“Physicians have a new tool at their disposal that complements existing disease modifying therapies,” said URMC neurologist Andrew Goodman, M.D. “For some patients, this drug may be a way to improve walking and help regain some independence in their daily lives that has been lost as a result of the disease.”

Existing treatments for MS seek to prevent relapses and slow the disease’s progression by suppressing the immune system and countering nervous system inflammation. However, the progressive nature of MS means that over time, function is lost and disability increases. This new drug is the first that improves function in an established symptom of the disease.

Goodman and his URMC colleague Steven Schwid, M.D., who passed away in November 2008, began evaluating the compound fampridine, a potassium ion channel blocker, for MS in the mid 1990s. Because fampridine represented a departure from established MS therapies, during their evaluation Goodman and Schwid had to devise new methods to measure the functional outcomes of the drug, one of which was timed walking over a 25-foot distance. Results from a Phase 3 clinical trial of the drug, published in The Lancet, showed that 35 percent of patients taking the drug responded to the treatment, which consistently improved their walking speed by an average of about 25 percent.

While walking was the primary measure, patients also reported that they could walk longer distances, climb stairs better, and stay on their feet longer. In prior research, they also found a strong correlation between the speed at which patients could walk and the overall measurement of disability resulting from MS.

“Not only could we measure the improvement, but the responders themselves were also able to identify that they were better,” said Goodman. “And they were better in a number of aspects of MS affecting their walking and ability to function on their feet including how far they could walk, how fast they could walk, and how long they could stay on their feet. All of these indicators improved.”

For more information about Ampyra, contact the Rochester Multiple Sclerosis Center at (585) 275-7854. The Center, located in Strong Memorial Hospital, provides comprehensive diagnostic and therapeutic services for MS and related demyelinating disorders and inflammatory disorders of the brain and spinal cord.

For more information


(585) 275-7854


Arianna Joseph-Parris
Phone: (585) 507-5480

Strong Consult and Transfer Center

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