There is no cure for multiple sclerosis, but a dozen Iowans with M-S are needed to test a potential new treatment that promises to be the first in pill form. Dr. Bruce Hughes, a Des Moines neurologist, says they’re looking for volunteers to try out the drug called Laquinimod.

Hughes says the patients will be randomized to either take the oral agent, Laquinimod, or a placebo. They’ll be carefully watched over the course of the study, through examination and M-R-I, to determine the effectiveness of the drug. M-S is a progressive, chronic disease that targets the central nervous system. Hughes says having a treatment in pill form would make a profound impact on M-S sufferers, 400-thousand in the U.S. alone.

The only current F-D-A-approved treatments are injected, and Hughes says, "Not a day goes by where a patient doesn’t ask me, ‘Doctor, these shots are killing me. When is the pill coming?’" Hughes’ office is in the Ruan Multiple Sclerosis Center at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines. It is the only Iowa facility taking part in the clinical trial. About a thousand patients nationwide will take part, but only 12 in Iowa. Hughes says the goal is lofty.

"What we hope to do is reduce the number of attacks patients have with multiple sclerosis and therefore, reduce the number of lesions that we see on the M-R-I scan and ultimately reduce the disability that’s associated with multiple sclerosis that people can live full, active, healthy lives," he says. Every week, another 200 people nationwide are diagnosed with M-S. To learn more about the Iowa study, call the Ruan M-S Center at (515) 358-0023.