Two hundred MS sufferers have volunteered to take part in the trials for what has been dubbed the Cari Loder treatment, named after a 35-year- old university lecturer who by accident discovered the "cure".
Scotia Pharmaceuticals is funding six months of trials in five teaching hospitals. It expects to announce results within three years. Present treatments merely modify the paralysing symptoms of MS, a progressive illness.
It is just over a year since Ms Loder shocked the nation with her story of how she defied the medical establishment. "One day I had been hardly able to walk without crutches; the next I was able to dance to Top of the Pops," she said of the miraculous event in 1994. More than two years on, she is still taking the cocktail and reports no symptoms of MS.
One of the five neurologists running the trials was bowled over by Ms Loder's tale of dramatic recovery on a television programme and in her book, Standing in the Sunshine. "Like most neurologists, I am quite cynical about new treatments as there have been so many before," he said. "She [Ms Loder] is terribly unfair to doctors when she says that nobody's going to take her seriously. It's the treatment we have to take seriously. It's no good to us unless the patients report long-term benefit."
The neurologist, who preferred not to be named, has prescribed the ingredients to some of his 700 patients. The results have been "mixed". "My [again] cynical view is that it won't be as good as Cari Loder says. We know that if you give people with MS anti-depressants they feel better and therefore can walk better."
Ms Loder said last night: "As far as I'm concerned the medical profession and I are on the same side. We all want the same thing which is to establish the truth about the effectiveness of this treatment." She maintains that it is a "treatment", not a "cure".
The participants in the phase-three trials have varying degrees of the disease. One group will be given a placebo amino acid and placebo anti-depressant plus the real vitamin B12. The other group will get the active anti-depressant, active amino acid and the real vitamin.
Results of a survey on the subject have been published in the MS Society's magazine, MS Matters. Twenty-one per cent of respondents had tried the treatment, of whom 62 per cent reported a positive change. Thirty-four per cent of those pleased with the effects said that they experienced "moderate" improvements to walking. Twenty-nine per cent reported a "very good" improvement emotionally. Twenty-nine per cent of those who tried the treatment said that their condition had worsened as a result.Reuse content