Lipoic acid (alpha lipoic acid) is a fat-soluble sulfur-containing antioxidant available as an over-the-counter supplement. It is currently being studied for use as a neuroprotector in people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Lipoic acid has been shown to reduce inflammation and degeneration of the optic nerve and spinal cord tissue in animal models of MS. It is believed to be suitable for patients. A pilot study exploring the antioxidant in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) showed that two years of treatment reduced the speed of brain tissue loss and improved the patients’ walking speed.

Studies of lipoic acid for RRMS

A Phase 2/3 trial (NCT01188811) to determine if lipoic acid can protect the brain and slow disability in people with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) was completed this month (February 2016). The results showed a significant reduction in brain atrophy and that lipoic acid was safe, well tolerated, and could possibly play a neuroprotective role in SPMS. Noted side effects were gastrointestinal.

A Phase 2 trial (NCT02133664) currently underway aims to determine if lipoic acid and omega-3 fatty acids can improve cognitive function in people with MS. Data is not available yet.

Larger trials are currently needed to confirm the impact of lipoic acid on brain atrophy.

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