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[IP] Drug's promise does not pan out for diabetics

November 02, 2000

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who have diabetes-related nerve damage do 
not appear to benefit from a synthetic version of human nerve growth factor, 
according to results of a new study.

Findings from animal studies and smaller human studies had suggested that 
people with diabetic polyneuropathy--a nerve-damage disorder that results in 
numbness, weakness, and pain--might benefit from recombinant human nerve 
growth factor (rhNGF). The compound is a genetically engineered version of a 
naturally-occurring factor that plays a major role in the development and 
maintenance of the nervous system outside the brain and spinal cord.

In the new study, rhNGF did not improve the symptoms experienced by patients 
with diabetic polyneuropathy, according to Dr. Stuart Apfel from Albert 
Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York and associates.

The researchers compared 418 patients who received injections of rhNGF three 
times a week for 48 weeks with 461 patients who received (inactive) placebo 
injections. The findings are published in the November 1st issue of The 
Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Overall, 31% of the patients improved, 38% worsened, and 31% remained 
unchanged (after rhNGF treatment)," the authors report. These results appeared 
to be slightly worse than those experienced by patients who received placebo.

Patients who received rhNGF were also much more likely to have pain or 
sensitivity at the injection site, muscle aches, and swelling than those who 
received placebo, the report indicates.

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