ALS drug approved by Health Canada could slow down progression of fatal disease

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Health Canada has approved a drug to help patients living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a debilitating disease that causes death within a few years of diagnosis.

The drug, called Radicava (generic name is edaravone) has been found to slow down the progression of the disease, allowing patients living with ALS the potential ability to live longer.

READ MORE: ‘People don’t live very long after being diagnosed,’ ALS Society of Manitoba says

“Radicava slows the loss of physical function including speech, swallowing, handwriting, cutting food and others,” Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma, the company that made the drug, said in a statement.

The drug went through three clinical trials in Japan and South Korea, where 137 ALS patients were either given Radicava or a placebo. The group given Radicava experienced a 33 per cent reduction in the decline of their physical abilities compared to the placebo group, according to the statement.

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“ALS is one of the most serious neurodegenerative diseases due to the crippling loss of function,” Dr. Angela Genge, director of the clinical research unit and ALS clinic, Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, said. “New therapies are most welcomed for patients and their families dealing with ALS.”

WATCH: Explaining ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease

Click to play video: 'Ask the Doctor: Explaining ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease' Ask the Doctor: Explaining ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease
Ask the Doctor: Explaining ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease – Jun 6, 2018

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, gradually causes muscle weakness and disability because the brain progressively loses its capacity to communicate with the muscles of the body.

Over time, patients living with ALS will typically experience a loss of their ability to walk, talk, eat, swallow, and eventually breathe.

Around 3,000 Canadians are currently living with the disease, according to the ALS Society of Canada.

READ MORE: Progress in ALS, which took life of Mauril Belanger, accelerating: researchers

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Health Canada approved the drug through its “priority review process,” which accelerates access to drugs (the department reviewed and approved the drug in 180 days rather than 300).

The drug is also used to treat ALS in the U.S., Japan and South Korea.

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