We studied copolymer 1 (Copaxone) in a multicenter (11–university) phase III trial of patients with relapsing–remitting multiple sclerosis (MS). Two hundred fifty–one patients were randomized to receive copolymer 1 (n = 125) or placebo (n = 126) at a dosage of 20 mg by daily subcutaneous injection for 2 years. The primary end point was a difference in the MS relapse rate. The final 2–year relapse rate was 1.19 ± 0.13 for patients receiving copolymer 1 and 1.68 ± 0.13 for those receiving placebo, a 29% reduction in favor of copolymer 1 (p = 0.007) (annualized rates = 0.59 for copolymer 1 and 0.84 for placebo). Trends in the proportion of relapse–free patients and median time to first relapse favored copolymer 1. Disability was measured by the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS), using a two–neurologist (examining and treating) protocol. When the proportion of patients who improved, were unchanged, or worsened by ≥1 EDSS step from baseline to conclusion (2 years) was evaluated, significantly more patients receiving copolymer 1 were found to have improved and more receiving placebo worsened (p = 0.037). Patient withdrawals were 19 (15.2%) from the copolymer 1 group and 17 (13.5%) from the placebo group at approximately the same intervals. The treatment was well tolerated. The most common adverse experience was an injection–site reaction. Rarely, a transient self–limited systemic reaction followed the injection in 15.2% of those receiving copolymer 1 and 3.2% of those receiving placebo. This reaction was characterized by flushing or chest tightness with palpitations, anxiety, or dyspnea and commonly lasted for 30 seconds to 30 minutes. This rigorous study confirmed the findings of a previous pilot trial and demonstrated that copolymer 1 treatment can significantly and beneficially alter the course of relapsing–remitting MS in a well–tolerated fashion.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Neurology