A double-blind, randomized, controlled study of oral pirfenidone for treatment of secondary progressive multiple sclerosis

Mult Scler. 2005 Apr;11(2):149-58. doi: 10.1191/1352458505ms1134oa.


Currently, there are no approved treatments for secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) that stabilize or reverse the neurological disabilities associated with this disease. Oral pirfenidone was found to stabilize and overcome the disabilities in two published independent open-label studies in secondary progressive MS. This led us to study pirfenidone in a phase II double-blind, randomized and controlled, clinical trial in patients with advanced secondary progressive MS for 12 months. Forty-three patients met the eligibility criteria approved by the IRB and accepted by the FDA. Of these patients, 18 were randomly assigned to placebo and 25 patients to oral pirfenidone groups. All eligible patients were included in the statistical analysis of the data according to intention-to-treat principles. Some patients on oral pirfenidone manifested mild drug-related adverse effects, but it was well tolerated overall. By one month, pirfenidone significantly (P < 0.05) improved the Scripps Neurological Rating Scale (SNRS) scores, and scores remained significantly improved for 3, 6 and 12 months when compared to the baseline SNRS scores. In contrast, the SNRS scores of patients on oral placebo were not significantly improved at 1, 3, 6 or 12 months of the study, when compared with baseline scores. Oral pirfenidone significantly (P <0.04) reduced the incidence of relapses (27.8% on placebo versus 8.0% on pirfenidone). Furthermore, oral pirfenidone treatment was associated with a marked improvement in bladder dysfunction (40.0% on pirfenidone versus 16.7% on placebo). Expanded Disability Status Scale scores and MRI lesion count were not significantly different in the placebo and pirfenidone groups. These findings indicate a significant effect of pirfenidone on clinical disability and bladder function for secondary progressive MS patients. A major multicentre, double-blind, randomized, controlled trial is justified.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / drug therapy*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / pathology
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Patient Dropouts
  • Pyridones / administration & dosage*
  • Recurrence
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Urination Disorders / drug therapy


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Pyridones
  • pirfenidone