MAR 31, 2017 02:29 PM PDT

New Multiple Sclerosis Drug Wins FDA Approval

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

The FDA recently approved the first drug for the treatment of relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS). The announcement marks a significant achievement, which is expected to help the 400,000 MS patients in the US.

Multiple sclerosis is described as a demyelinating disease whereby the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin sheath covers in the brain and spinal cord. This disrupts the electrical signal traveling from the brain to the body, and leads to physical and neurologic disabilities. The progressive form of MS causes patients to slowly deteriorate over time, while the relapsing form causes patients to go through bouts of symptoms and recovery. There is no cure for either form of MS.

“Multiple sclerosis can have a profound impact on a person’s life,” said Billy Dunn, the director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “This therapy not only provides another treatment option for those with relapsing MS, but for the first time provides an approved therapy for those with primary progressive MS.”

The drug is known on the market as Ocrevus (ocrelizumab), and it works by weakening the immune system. In particular, IV infusions of Ocrevus prevent the B cells from attacking the protective myelin covers.

Tested in patients with both forms of MS (the progressive form and the relapsing remitting form), Ocrevus seems to stop the inflammation process in the brain. This results in less fatigue and muscle weakness. Vision seems to also be improved. Furthermore, scans show significantly less brain loss with the help of ocrelizumab.

"The drug is so much more effective at shutting down inflammation," said David Hafler, an MS expert from the Yale School of Medicine.

Side effects associated with Ocrevus include infusion-related reactions, such as skin irritation, flushing, shortness of breath, and nausea. In addition, upper respiratory tract infections were among the most common side effect seen with the drug in both forms of MS.

Patients eager to be treated with Ocrevus will have to wait just a few more weeks. Furthermore, they should also be aware that this drug comes with a hefty price tag of $65,000 per year. Though the cost is substantial, it is reportedly on par with approved drugs for the other forms of MS.

Additional sources: CNN

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
NOV 29, 2018
Cardiology
NOV 29, 2018
Green Tea Polyphenol Prevents Artery Rupture
Japanese people are among the longest-living individuals in the world, and it’s very likely that a majority of their longevity is thanks to drinking...
MAY 30, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
MAY 30, 2018
Diagnosing Deadly Kidney Cancers Sooner
Researchers have found that deadly kidney cancers can be identified by assessing their evolutionary path, which is different for distinct types....
JUL 20, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
JUL 20, 2018
X-ray Images to Get Colors
In the near future, the X-ray images from your doctor's office will no longer be just black and white, at least that's what MARS Bioimaging Ltd, an...
OCT 29, 2018
Immunology
OCT 29, 2018
Escape of the Tumor Cell
Tumor cells in breast cancer have proven to evade the immune responses utilizing actin cytoskeleton...
NOV 07, 2018
Immunology
NOV 07, 2018
Herd Protection Against Measles
A 26-year-old leukemia patient dies from exposure to measles. Herd immunity can offer a level of protection for those with impaired immune systems....
NOV 13, 2018
Immunology
NOV 13, 2018
Bacteria Offers Solution to Inflammation
A team of researchers surveys the mutualistic relationship between gut bacteria and host in regards to gut inflammation in zebrafish...
Loading Comments...