World-first trial will test three drugs for progressive multiple sclerosis

A new trial to assess whether drugs already on the market can be used to treat and halt progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) is set to take place.

The new world-class Octopus clinical trial will enable scientists to research the benefits of several drugs at the same time, hopefully allowing them to discover new treatments three times quicker than if each medicine was trialled separately.

The trial will recruit hundreds of people living with MS and randomly assign them to either have standard care for progressive MS, or care and an additional one of three drugs. It’s hoped that one of the three drugs being trialled will protect neurons from further damage by MS, or even repair some of the damage done.

The way the trial is designed means that if any drugs start showing benefits, more people can be enrolled, which will mean more data regarding efficacy and side effects.

Providing Covid-19 does not interfere with plans, the trial will begin recruiting this year. Co-leading the trial is Jeremy Chataway, a professor of neurology at University College London, and Mahesh Parmar, a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology, also at UCL.

People taking part in the trial will have brain scans after 18 months to see if the drug they are on has made any difference to their MS progression. If it hasn’t, it will be replaced by another drug.