A female hormone may help relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis. When researchrers at UCLA combined the hormone estriol with the MS drug Copaxone, they found the relapse rate dropped by nearly half with one year of treatment.
Scientists said the women also scored higher on tests of cognitive abilities after one year, than women taking Copaxone with a placebo.
Estriol has been used for years in Europe and Asia as a hormone replacement therapy for menopause symptoms - but it hasn't been approved in the United States. It can be given as a pill, rather than as a shot, as most MS medications are.
Although the pill is not yet approved for use in the U.S., the fact that it already exists and is a generic should dramatically reduce the cost of treatment, according to Dr. Rhonda Voskuhl, the UCLA neurologist who led the study.
She added that, "estriol is particularly promising because it both reduces attacks and protects the brain directly. It's a two-pronged approach - an anti-inflammatory prong to reduce the attacks, and a neuroprotective prong to make the brain suffer less damage in case of an attack."
Dr. Voskuhl said the results are promising, but must be validated in a larger study.