It is hard to believe that it’s been nearly 25 years since the arrival of Betaseron in 1993, which was the first medication to treat multiple sclerosis (MS). Today, we have 14 approved disease modifying therapies that can be used to treat those living with MS.
What is Multiple sclerosis?
Recent findings from a National Multiple Sclerosis Society study estimate that there are nearly 1 million people in the United States and over 2.3 million people worldwide living with this autoimmune disease in which immune cells attack myelin, the fatty coating around nerves in the brain and the spinal cord. This process, called demyelination, can lead to symptoms throughout the body, including difficulty walking, visual impairment, bladder and bowel dysfunction, memory problems, and numbness and tingling, among others. All of the MS therapies serve to suppress the immune system in an effort to prevent demyelination and reduce relapses and progression of the disease.
Ocrevus medication treats MS
Ocrevus was approved in 2017 for the treatment of MS. Its FDA approval created much excitement in the MS community, as it is the only treatment for MS that has shown to be effective for both relapsing-remitting and primary progressive forms of MS in clinical trials.
Ocrevus belongs to a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies. It targets a specific type of immune cell called Cd20 positive B lymphocytes that are known to cause demyelination. Ocrevus is a new version of a medication called Rituxan (rituximab) that has been used off-label in MS for many years. It is administered as an intravenous infusion once every 6 months, although the first infusion is divided into two doses given two weeks apart.
Ocrevus side effects
In general, Ocrevus is well-tolerated. The most common side effects include infusion reactions, during which the patient may experience itchy skin or rash, throat irritation or tightness, and fatigue. Pre-medications are given prior to the infusion to offset these reactions. Other potential risks include increased risk of serious infections and malignancy, so proper monitoring by a healthcare provider is essential. More than 100,000 patients worldwide have started Ocrevus as their disease modifying therapy. The landscape of MS treatment is changing every day, and Ocrevus is one of many medications that serve to benefit the population of those affected by MS and offer hope for disease stability.