Drugs & Aging

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 173–196 | Cite as

Treatment of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

  • Andrew Eisen
  • Markus Weber
Disease Management


Survival of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is improving. Timely and more frequent implementation of bimodal passive airway pressure (BIPAP) and percutaneous endoscopically placed gastrostomy (PEG) may be the major factors impacting on longer survival. However, several drugs recently subjected to rigorous clinical trials have demonstrated significant results or encouraging trends. ALS is a complex disease in which aging neurons are subjected to a variety of susceptibility genes, most of which remain to be discovered, that interact with equally unrecognised environmental factors. This makes it unlikely that a single therapeutic agent will be of value. The thrust must be on polypharmacy. The ‘cocktail’ that will eventually be of greatest benefit has yet to be formulated. It might contain glutamate N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and non-NMDA receptor antagonists, antioxidants or a combination of trophic factors and neuroprotective agents. This statement is made with the understanding that the aetiopathogenesis of ALS is far from clear.

Drug delivery is a problem and better delivery systems are needed. The efficacy of some of the medications that presently only induce modest benefit may be improved by liposomal packaging, use of a patch or inhalation delivery or intraventricular pump reservoirs.

There is a great need to develop an early marker of ALS and sensitive reproducible measures of disease progression. This will curtail the present need for large, lengthy and very expensive clinical trials.

The new millennium will see the advent of targeted therapy using viral vectors which can deliver replacement genes, trophic factors and other drugs to degenerating neurons; transplantation of neural progenitor cells which can become mature functioning neurons; anti-apoptotic agents which will allow neurons to survive longer; and mechanisms that can protect the telomerase maintenance system which is so crucial in the immortalisation of cells.


Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Adis International Limited Gabapentin Lamotrigine Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Patient 
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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Neuromuscular Diseases UnitVancouver General Hospital and The University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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