Panel Backs Drug for Treatment of Gehrig's Disease

Associated Press

A scientific panel recommended Monday that the government approve the first drug to show any effectiveness against Lou Gehrig's disease.

The scientists voted, 5 to 4, for the recommendation to the Food and Drug Administration after reviewing tests that suggested a slightly longer survival time for some patients--but no cure for the fatal neuromuscular disease.

The drug, riluzole, appears to help some people live an extra three months, and more than a dozen patients tearfully told the FDA panel that was vital.

"Will it cure me? No," said Donald Simons, a retired Navy physicist who was diagnosed with the disease in January. "Will it make my life better? I don't know, but I can hope."

"I'm in a race against time," a sobbing Stacey Henninger of Philadelphia told the panel.

There is no approved treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Victims' life expectancy--just three to five years--has changed little since the disease killed New York Yankees' first baseman Lou Gehrig in 1941.

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