New Preclinical Data Suggests FTY720 May Repair or Reduce Damage Caused by Multiple Sclerosis Through a Direct Effect in the Brain
* Potential beneficial impact on central nervous system in addition to well established action on immune cells
* Recruitment complete for two of three pivotal Phase III trials; recruitment for third study is ongoing and on track
* MS most common neurological disorder in young adults, affecting more than an estimated 2.5 million people worldwide
EAST HANOVER, N.J., Oct. 12, 2007- New preclinical data presented at European Committee for Treatment and Research of Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) in Prague suggests that FTY720 (fingolimod) directly reduces neurodegeneration and enhances repair of the central nervous system (CNS) damage caused by multiple sclerosis (MS) by interacting with sphingosine-1-phosphate receptors (S1P-R) expressed on brain cells. This mechanism of action may be in addition to the established anti-inflammatory role of FTY720 that is mediated by the reduction of inflammatory immune cells, called lymphocytes, from reaching the brain.
FTY720 is a novel, once-daily, oral treatment currently in worldwide Phase III clinical development to test its safety and efficacy as a disease modifying therapy for relapsing-remitting MS, which affects approximately 85% of people with multiple sclerosis.
The potential direct beneficial effect of FTY720 in the CNS is supported by the results of several preclinical experiments being presented at ECTRIMS, including research in animal models of MS and in vitro studies on CNS cells called oligodendrocytes.
In an animal model of MS (experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in rats), the administration of FTY720 directly into the CNS resulted in a statistically significant reduction in disease severity. This decrease in disease activity was seen in the absence of a reduction of lymphocytes in the bloodstream, suggesting that the favorable effect of FTY720 seen in this model is due to a direct effect in the CNS that is independent of the effects on peripheral lymphocytes.
In two experiments presented at ECTRIMS, the modulation of S1P-R by the addition of FTY720 resulted in an increase in the number, growth and survival of oligodendrocytes in cell culture. This effect of FTY720 on oligodendrocytes may help limit destruction of myelin and promote its repair and, thus, may contribute to the effectiveness of FTY720 in MS. Oligodendrocytes are cells in the CNS that make a fatty tissue, called myelin, which is necessary for normal signal transfer along nerve fibers in the CNS. Myelin and oligodendrocytes are typically damaged in MS.
"FTY720 crosses the blood-brain barrier and the drug's target - S1P receptors - are present on brain cells, including oligodendrocytes as shown in animal cell studies," said Jack Antel, Professor, Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, McGill University, Montreal, Canada. "We are able to confirm that FTY720 directly modulates the S1P receptors on human oligodendrocyte progenitor cells."
FTY720 is currently being investigated in the largest worldwide Phase III clinical trial program to be conducted in MS to evaluate further its efficacy and safety as a disease modifying therapy for relapsing-remitting MS. This comprehensive program includes trials referred to as FREEDOMS, FREEDOMS II and TRANSFORMS. Recruitment is complete for FREEDOMS and TRANSFORMS. Recruitment is ongoing and on track for FREEDOMS II and FTY720 regulatory filing is planned for the second half of 2009. For more information about the clinical trial program, including eligibility criteria and location of U.S. study sites, patients can call the following toll-free number: 866-788-3930, or visit www.MSClinicalTrials.com.
"Novartis has a significant long-term investment and commitment to multiple sclerosis and neuroscience through its extensive research and development program," said Ludwig Hantson, PhD, Senior VP for Commercial Development & Specialty Businesses at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. "We believe oral FTY720 is an exciting and promising experimental therapy for MS as shown by the compelling Phase II data. As an oral therapy with a novel mechanism of action and promising efficacy, FTY720 has the potential to be a significant and innovative therapeutic advance."
Phase II Study Results
The six-month, placebo-controlled Phase II study conducted in 281 patients with relapsing MS in 11 countries (Europe and Canada) showed that oral FTY720, taken once-daily, reduced relapse rates by more than 50% compared to placebo and reduced MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) measures of inflammation with approximately 80% of patients free of active brain lesions.
In patients continuously treated with FTY720 for up to two years (placebo-controlled study plus the extension trial), up to 77% of patients were relapse-free and more than 80% of patients were free of active brain lesions at two years.
In the six-month placebo-controlled phase of the Phase II study, the most frequent adverse events reported for FTY720 were dose-dependent upper respiratory tract infections (mainly nasopharyngitis) and dyspnea, plus diarrhea and nausea. FTY720 treatment was associated with initial dose-dependent decreases in heart rate and expiratory air flow. Clinically asymptomatic increases in alanine aminotransferase (liver enzyme) and an increase in blood pressure were also observed. No unexpected adverse events emerged in patients treated for up to 24 months compared with the six-month placebo-controlled phase. There was no further elevation of blood pressure with continued treatment beyond the effect seen at six months.
The ongoing Phase III study program includes comprehensive monitoring, which will provide further characterization of the safety profile of FTY720.
MS is the most common disorder of the CNS in young adults, affecting more than an estimated 2.5 million people worldwide. It is a progressive and debilitating disorder caused by the destruction of myelin, which helps neurons carry electrical signals in the brain. MS causes problems with muscle control and strength, vision, balance, sensation and mental function. MS typically presents in relapsing forms involving acute self-limiting attacks of neurological dysfunction (or "relapses") followed by complete or partial restoration of functions.
This release contains certain forward-looking statements relating to Novartis' business, which can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as "may," "suggests," "suggesting," "potential," "promising," "planned" or similar expressions, or by express or implied statements regarding the potential approval of FTY720 by health authorities for marketing, whether or not FTY720 will be the first orally effective MS treatment, the potential health effects or long-term impact of a patient's use of FTY720, or potential future revenue from FTY720. Such forward-looking statements reflect the current views of Novartis regarding future events, and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual results with FTY720 to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such statements. There can be no guarantee that FTY720 will be approved for any indications or labeling in any market. Neither can there be any guarantee that, if approved, it will be the first orally effective MS treatment. Neither can there be any guarantee regarding the health effects or long-term impact of a patient's use of FTY720. Neither can there be any guarantees that FTY720 will reach any particular levels of revenue. In particular, management's expectations regarding FTY720 could be affected by, among other things, unexpected clinical trial results, including new clinical trial results and additional analysis of existing results; unexpected regulatory actions or delays or government regulation generally; competition in general; Novartis' ability to obtain or maintain patent or other proprietary intellectual property protection; government, industry and general public pricing pressures, and other risks and factors referred to in Novartis AG's current Form 20-F on file with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Should one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize, or should underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results may vary materially from those anticipated, believed, estimated or expected. Novartis is providing the information in this press release as of this date and does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statements contained in this press release as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
Novartis has been a leader in the neuroscience area for more than 50 years, having pioneered early breakthrough treatments for Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, epilepsy, schizophrenia and migraine, many of which continue to be regarded as "gold standards" to this day. Novartis continues to be at the forefront of research and development of new compounds and is committed to addressing unmet medical needs and to supporting patients and families affected by these disorders.
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation develops, manufactures markets and sells leading innovative prescription drugs used to treat a number of diseases and conditions, including those in the cardiovascular, metabolic, cancer, organ transplantation, central nervous system, dermatological, gastrointestinal and respiratory areas. The company's mission is to improve people's lives by pioneering novel healthcare solutions.
Located in East Hanover, New Jersey, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation is an affiliate of Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS), a world leader in offering medicines to protect health, cure disease and improve well-being. Our goal is to discover, develop and successfully market innovative products to treat patients, ease suffering and enhance the quality of life. We are strengthening our medicine-based portfolio, which is focused on strategic growth platforms in innovation-driven pharmaceuticals, high-quality and low-cost generics, human vaccines and leading self-medication OTC brands. Novartis is the only company with leadership positions in these areas. In 2006, the Group's businesses achieved net sales of USD 37.0 billion and net income of USD 7.2 billion. Approximately USD 5.4 billion was invested in R&D. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ approximately 100,000 associates and operate in over 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit http://www.novartis.com.
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Novartis Media Relations
Posted: October 2007