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Copaxone (Glatiramer Acetate) - Description and Clinical Pharmacology




COPAXONE® is the brand name for glatiramer acetate (formerly known as copolymer-1). Glatiramer acetate, a member of the Glatiramoid family of compounds and the active ingredient of COPAXONE®, consists of the acetate salts of synthetic polypeptides, containing four naturally occurring amino acids: L-glutamic acid, L-alanine, L-tyrosine, and L-lysine with an average molar fraction of 0.141, 0.427, 0.095, and 0.338, respectively. The average molecular weight of glatiramer acetate is 5,000 – 9,000 daltons. Glatiramer acetate is identified by specific antibodies.

Chemically, glatiramer acetate is designated L-glutamic acid polymer with L-alanine, L-lysine and L-tyrosine, acetate (salt). Its structural formula is:

COPAXONE® Injection is a clear, colorless to slightly yellow, sterile, non-pyrogenic solution for subcutaneous injection. Each 1.0 mL of solution contains 20 mg of glatiramer acetate and 40 mg of mannitol, USP. The pH range of the solution is approximately 5.5 to 7.0. The biological activity of COPAXONE® is determined by its ability to block the induction of EAE in mice.


Mechanism of Action

The mechanism(s) by which glatiramer acetate exerts its effects in patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is (are) not fully elucidated. However, it is thought to act by modifying immune processes that are currently believed to be responsible for the pathogenesis of MS. This hypothesis is supported by findings of studies that have been carried out to explore the pathogenesis of experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE), a condition induced in several animal species through immunization against central nervous system derived material containing myelin and often used as an experimental animal model of MS. Studies in animals and in vitro systems suggest that upon its administration, glatiramer acetate-specific suppressor T-cells are induced and activated in the periphery.

Because glatiramer acetate can modify immune functions, concerns exist about its potential to alter naturally occurring immune responses. Results of a limited battery of tests designed to evaluate this risk produced no finding of concern; nevertheless, there is no logical way to absolutely exclude this possibility (see PRECAUTIONS).


Results obtained in pharmacokinetic studies performed in humans (healthy volunteers) and animals support the assumption that a substantial fraction of the therapeutic dose delivered to patients subcutaneously is hydrolyzed locally. Nevertheless, larger fragments of glatiramer acetate can be recognized by glatiramer acetate-reactive antibodies. Some fraction of the injected material, either intact or partially hydrolyzed, is presumed to enter the lymphatic circulation, enabling it to reach regional lymph nodes, and some may enter the systemic circulation intact.

Clinical Trials

Evidence supporting the effectiveness of glatiramer acetate in decreasing the frequency of relapses in patients with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RR MS) derives from two placebo-controlled trials, both of which used a glatiramer acetate dose of 20 mg/day. (No other dose or dosing regimen has been studied in placebo-controlled trials of RR MS.)

One trial was performed at a single center. It enrolled 50 patients who were randomized to receive daily doses of either glatiramer acetate, 20 mg subcutaneously, or placebo (glatiramer acetate, n=25; placebo, n=25). Patients were diagnosed with RR MS by standard criteria, and had had at least 2 exacerbations during the 2 years immediately preceding enrollment. Patients were ambulatory, as evidenced by a score of no more than 6 on the Kurtzke Disability Scale Score (DSS), a standard scale ranging from 0–Normal to 10–Death due to MS. A score of 6 is defined as one at which a patient is still ambulatory with assistance; a score of 7 means the patient must use a wheelchair.

Patients were examined every 3 months for 2 years, as well as within several days of a presumed exacerbation. To confirm an exacerbation, a blinded neurologist had to document objective neurologic signs, as well as document the existence of other criteria (e.g., the persistence of the neurological signs for at least 48 hours).

The protocol-specified primary outcome measure was the proportion of patients in each treatment group who remained exacerbation free for the 2 years of the trial, but two other important outcomes were also specified as endpoints: 1) the frequency of attacks during the trial, and 2) the change in the number of attacks compared with the number which occurred during the previous 2 years.

Table 1 presents the values of the three outcomes described above, as well as several protocol specified secondary measures. These values are based on the intent-to-treat population (i.e., all patients who received at least 1 dose of treatment and who had at least 1 on-treatment assessment):

Progression was defined as an increase of at least 1 point on the DSS, persisting for at least 3 consecutive months.

Table 1: Study 1 Efficacy Results
Outcome Glatiramer Acetate
Placebo (N=25) P-Value


% Relapse-Free Patients

14/25 (56%)

7/25 (28%)


Mean Relapse Frequency

0.6/2 years

2.4/2 years


Reduction in Relapse Rate Compared to Pre-Study




Median Time to First Relapse (days)




% of Progression-Free* Patients

20/25 (80%)

13/25 (52%)


The second trial was a multicenter trial of similar design which was performed in 11 US centers. A total of 251 patients (glatiramer acetate, 125; placebo, 126) were enrolled. The primary outcome measure was the Mean 2-Year Relapse Rate. The table below presents the values of this outcome for the intent-to-treat population, as well as several secondary measures:

Table 2: Study 2 Efficacy Results
Outcome Glatiramer Acetate

Mean No. of Relapses

1.19/2 years

1.68 /2 years


% Relapse-Free Patients

42/125 (34%)

34/126 (27%)


Median Time to First Relapse (days)




% of Progression-Free Patients

98/125 (78%)

95/126 (75%)


Mean Change in DSS




In both studies glatiramer acetate exhibited a clear beneficial effect on relapse rate, and it is based on this evidence that glatiramer acetate is considered effective.

A third study was a multi-national study in which MRI parameters were used both as primary and secondary endpoints. A total of 239 patients with RR MS (119 on glatiramer acetate and 120 on placebo) were randomized. Inclusion criteria were similar to those in the second study with the additional criterion that patients had to have at least one Gd-enhancing lesion on the screening MRI. The patients were treated in a double-blind manner for nine months, during which they underwent monthly MRI scanning. The primary endpoint for the double-blind phase was the total cumulative number of T1 Gd-enhancing lesions over the nine months. Table 3 summarizes the results for the primary outcome measure monitored during the trial for the intent-to-treat cohort.

Table 3: Study 3 MRI Results
Outcome Glatiramer Acetate

Medians of the Cumulative Number of T1 Gd-Enhancing Lesions




The following figure displays the results of the primary outcome on a monthly basis.

Figure 1: Median Cumulative Number of Gd-Enhancing Lesions

p= 0.0030 for the difference between the placebo-treated (n=120) and glatiramer acetate-treated (n=119) groups

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