Clinic hosts MS-SMART unblinding event

Research participants listening to a presentation

Feb 2019: On Saturday 9th February, the Clinic hosted an ‘unblinding event’ for people with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) who took part in the MS-SMART drugs trial.

The MS-SMART trial is now complete, and this event was to enable participants to find out what drug they had been taking.

The trial tested three different drugs already licensed in the UK to treat people with other medical conditions.

There were 445 people with SPMS who took part in the UK-wide trial with 93 recruited through the Anne Rowling Clinic. None of the participants knew what drug they were being given as part of the trial. The medical trial team also didn’t know which medicine was being given to each participant. This type of trial is called a ‘blinded trial’.

A blinded trial stops any intentional or subconscious bias that may influence the outcome of the tests. Only in a medical emergency during the trial, or after the trial once the results have been analysed, would the medical trial team access the information to tell them which of the three drugs, or placebo (dummy drug), a participant was taking.

On Saturday, people who took part in MS-SMART were ‘unblinded’ so that they could find out which drug they had been taking as part of the trial for two years; amiloride (used to treat heart disease), riluzole (a treatment for motor neurone disease), fluoxetine (used for depression) or a placebo pill.

Unfortunately, at the end of the trial, researchers found no clinical effect of the three drugs being tested. This was announced in October 2018. Although everyone involved in the study was disappointed at this result, the researchers were keen to tell participants that their involvement provided a wealth of information to use going forward that will help inform the drug selection for future trials and what medications should be prioritised.

As part of the trial, MRI scans and other clinical measures such as walking, eyesight and simple thinking tests were done before and after treatment to test for signs of MS disease progression.


“Many thanks to everyone who made this trial possible and for advancing the treatment and understanding of MS.“

Research participant


“We are very grateful to everyone who took part in the MS-SMART trial. We are part of a global effort to find new discoveries and treatments for MS and we couldn’t do this without the people who are living with the condition taking part in clinical trials. They are helping to create a positive future for everyone living with MS today and tomorrow.”

Professor Siddharthan ChandranAnne Rowling Clinic Director and one of the MS-SMART Principal Investigators


This article was published on: Tuesday, February 12, 2019