New Drug Treats Multiple Sclerosis

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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). Since then, there have been 14 additional Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved MS therapies made available to patients. Recently, an additional new drug has been released.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

More than 2 million people worldwide live with MS. Multiple sclerosis is an 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 medications serve to modulate or suppress the immune system in an effort to prevent demyelination.

Ocrevus Medication Treats MS

Ocrevus is the newest MS medication to become available. Its FDA approval this year 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.

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 and improved version of a medication called Rituxan (rituximab) that has been used off-label in MS for many years. It is administered as an 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 very well-tolerated. The most common side effects include infusion reactions, during which the patient may experience itchy skin or rash, throat irritation or tightness, or fatigue. Pre-medications are given prior to the infusion to offset these reactions. Other potential risks include increased risk of infection and malignancy, so proper monitoring by a healthcare provider is essential.

The landscape of multiple sclerosis treatment is changing every day, and Ocrevus is the beginning of an era that will serve to benefit a larger population of patients and offer hope for disease stability.

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