In vitro, in vivo, and open-label studies suggest that interferon gamma (IFN-γ 1b) may improve clinical features in Friedreich Ataxia through an increase in frataxin levels. The present study evaluates the efficacy and safety of IFN-γ 1b in the treatment of Friedreich Ataxia through a double-blind, multicenter, placebo-controlled trial. Ninety-two subjects with FRDA between 10 and 25 years of age were enrolled. Subjects received either IFN-γ 1b or placebo for 6 months. The primary outcome measure was the modified Friedreich Ataxia Rating Scale (mFARS). No difference was noted between the groups after 6 months of treatment in the mFARS or secondary outcome measures. No change was noted in buccal cell or whole blood frataxin levels. However, during an open-label extension period, subjects had a more stable course than expected based on natural history data. This study provides no direct evidence for a beneficial effect of IFN-γ1b in FRDA. The modest stabilization compared to natural history data leaves open the possibility that longer studies may demonstrate benefit.
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