Medical researchers find hypertension drug may reduce MS

NEW YORK Patients with multiple sclerosis must often treat their disease with expensive biotech drug regimens, but scientists at Stanford University may have found a cheaper way.

In a paper published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Stanford School of Medicine researchers found that patients with MS had high levels of an enzyme that produces angiotensin, a hormone that causes high blood pressure.

The researchers next tested the hypertension drug lisinopril on mice bred to develop brain lesions and symptoms similar to those in MS patients and found that it alleviated their paralysis when given after the mice had developed full-blown MS symptoms.

Currently, MS patients must rely on expensive biotech drugs such as Elan Corp.’s Tysabri (natalizumab), which carries a wholesale price of $2,184.62 per vial. Lisinopril, originally marketed by Merck & Co. as Prinivil and by AstraZeneca as Zestril, is available as a generic.

“If multiple sclerosis patients can be treated with lisinopril at something like 1% of the price of treatment with Tysabri, then far more patients will receive adequate therapy, at a substantially lower cost to those paying for it,” Imperial College London immunologist Marc Feldmann, who is familiar with the study but did not participate in it, said in a statement.