Dimethyl fumarate, also called BG12 and Tecfidera, has recently been approved in the USA, Australia, Canada and the European Union as a first-line treatment for patients with relapsing-remitting MS.
The development of MS involves inflammatory and neurodegenerative components, both of which seem to be tackled by dimethyl fumarate. It reduces the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, the molecules that activate inflammation in the central nervous system. In addition, it seems to protect neurons from oxidative stress.
Ethyl pyruvate, an off-the-shelf drug, has similar properties to dimethyl fumarate, but its ability to modulate the immune system has not been put into the context of MS therapy.
A study published in the Journal of Neuroimmunology compared the effects of ethyl pyruvate and dimethyl fumarate on MS animal models.
It showed that ethyl pyruvate and dimethyl fumarate both have a number of anti-inflammatory effects relevant to MS. Also, treatment with ethyl fumarate resulted in delay to and shortening of the first relapse, and lower clinical disability scores.
New drug strategies are essential in treating MS, and more studies on the use of ethyl fumarate to treat MS are needed.