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NE U R O L OG Y Two-Pronged Therapy Shows Benefit for Women with MS A UCLA-led multi-center clinical trial has provided encouraging evidence of the potential benefits of combining the female hormone estriol with standard medication as part of a two-pronged strategy for women with multiple sclerosis (MS) — reducing the relapses that characterize the disease while protecting patients from the cognitive effects of MS. The randomized, placebo-controlled Phase II clinical trial, which took place at 16 sites across the U.S., found that in female patients with relapsing-remitting MS, combining an 8-milligram daily estriol pill with the commonly prescribed MS drug Copaxone reduced the relapse rate by one-third after a year of treatment, compared with patients who took Copaxone alone. Moreover, women taking Copaxone plus estriol scored higher UCLAHEALTH.ORG 1-800-UCLA-MD1 (1-800-825-2631) on cognitive tests than the women who were taking Copaxone and a placebo. More study still is necessary before estriol can be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for MS treatment, and “at this point, we haven’t changed our prescribing practices for MS,” says Barbara S. Giesser, MD, clinical director of the UCLA Multiple Sclerosis Program. “But these findings, particularly the improvements in cognition, are very encouraging. If it turns out that estriol has a neuroprotective effect, that would be something we could offer our patients that is not available today. We are looking forward to the results of larger studies.” For decades, it was noted that in late stages of pregnancy, women with MS experienced a sharp drop in relapses — beyond the effects of any approved MS treatments. Intrigued by those findings, Rhonda Voskuhl, MD,