US approves first ALS drug in two decades

Promising ALS therapy impresses in clinical trials
Credit: Shutterstock.com/ Sebastian Kaulitzki

Radicava has become the first new treatment approved in the US for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) for some two decades.

“After learning about the use of edaravone to treat ALS in Japan, we rapidly engaged with the drug developer about filing a marketing application in the United States,” said Eric Bastings, M.D., Deputy Director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.”

Commonly known Lou Gehrig’s Disease, ALS is a rare disease that attacks and kills the nerve cells that control voluntary muscles.

The nerves lose the ability to activate specific muscles, which causes the muscles to become weak and leads to paralysis.

ALS is progressive, meaning it gets worse over time. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 12,000-15,000 Americans have ALS. Most people with ALS die from respiratory failure, usually within three to five years from when the symptoms first appear.

Radicava is an intravenous infusion given by a health care professional. It is administered with an initial treatment cycle of daily dosing for 14 days, followed by a 14-day drug-free period. Subsequent treatment cycles consist of dosing on 10 of 14 days, followed by 14 days drug-free.

The efficacy of edaravone for the treatment of ALS was demonstrated in a six-month clinical trial conducted in Japan. In the trial, 137 participants were randomized to receive edaravone or placebo. At Week 24, individuals receiving edaravone declined less on a clinical assessment of daily functioning compared to those receiving a placebo.

The FDA granted this drug orphan drug designation, which provides incentives to assist and encourage the development of drugs for rare diseases.