Glatiramer Acetate (GA; trademark Copaxone® by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd.) is licensed in much of the world for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. In early trials of the drug, it was known as Copolymer-1 and Cop-1. more...
While not a cure, glatiramer acetate has been shown in clinical trials to reduce the average relapse rate in people with the relapsing-remitting (RRMS) form of the disease. That doesn't mean that it reduces the relapse rate for all the trial volunteers, just that averaged over the entire volunteer population, the relapse rate was reduced. Glatiramer has also been shown to limit the formation of new MS-related lesions in the central nervous system and to reduce brain atrophy.
Glatiramer was licensed for the treatment of RRMS in the USA by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 1996. It has been approved in Britain, Canada and most of Europe by the national drug regulation organisations.
Glatiramer is a random chain polymer of amino acids - Glutamic acid, Lysine, Alanine and Tyrosine (hence GLATiramer). It is synthesized in solution from these amino acids a ratio of approximately 5 parts Alanine to 3 of Lysine, 1.5 of Glutamic acid and 1 of Tyrosine using N-carboxyamino acid anhydrides. It was originally designed to mimic a protein in myelin, called myelin basic protein, with the intention of inducing EAE (an animal model of MS). Quite to the contrary, it was found to suppress the disease and as a result came to be trialed in human MS. For this reason, it was originally believed to act as a decoy by drawing the immune system's attack away from the myelin.
Nowadays, researchers are no longer at all sure how glatiramer works. The is some evidence that it converts the body's immune response from a Th1 type to a Th2 one, promotes suppressor T cells or acts as an altered peptide ligand.
The drug is self-administered by daily sub-cutaneous injections of 20 mg.
It is generally well tolerated. The most common problem that users experience are injection site reactions which include itching and inflammation. These reactions can be mitigated against by revolving the injection site, preparing it with ice and ensuring that the drug is at room temperature before injecting. Some users experience flushing, chest and joint pains, weakness, nausea, anxiety and muscle stiffness. These tend to resolve after about a quarter of an hour without special treatment.
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