Results released last week show no effect of a potential new treatment for progressive MS.
The trial of a tablet called MD1003 (containing a very high dose of biotin) didn't have positive results. This trial was the work of a pharmaceutical company in France, but did include people with MS from the UK.
What is biotin?
Biotin is part of the vitamin B family, whose role is to help the body turn food into energy. It’s found in low levels in lots of different foods, as well as being produced naturally by bacteria living in your body.
The researchers hoped that biotin may be able to treat MS progression by promoting repair of myelin – the protective fatty coating around our nerves. Biotin activates certain enzymes that help the body produce myelin. Enzymes are molecules inside cells that carry out important processes in the body.
In the trial, participants took three daily tablets containing 100mg of biotin. This is thousands of times higher than what the NHS say is a safe limit (0.9 mg or less). But the tablets were specially manufactured to be safe at these levels, unlike the biotin supplements available to buy in shops.
What did the study show?
Previous smaller trials gave some indication that taking a high dose of biotin might have a small effect on MS progression. So the aim of this trial, called SPI2, was to find out whether MD1003 could benefit people with both primary and secondary MS who weren’t having relapses. 642 people took part.
Unfortunately, they found that MD1003 was no better than a placebo at improving disability (measured by improvements on the EDSS or the time needed to walk 25ft). It also didn’t show an effect on slowing down how quickly disability got worse.
What does this mean for people with MS?
Although these results are disappointing, they add to the body of evidence on how we approach myelin repair treatments in MS.
Dr Emma Gray, our Assistant Director of Research said: “In the UK, there are over 130,000 people living with MS, and while there are a dozen treatments available for people with the relapsing form of the condition, we urgently need treatments to slow and stop disability progression. That’s why we are funding vital research to better understand what goes wrong in MS and how to treat it, so everyone with MS has access to an effective therapy."