FEB 08, 2018 6:16 AM PST

A Drug for Early Stage MS is Approved in Europe and the UK

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most prevalent neurological disability around the globe. While onset could be at any age, it's most commonly found in adults between the ages of 20 and 40. In the United States, there are approximately 400,000 people dealing with some form of MS. Worldwide, the number of patients is over 2.5 million.

200 new cases of MS are diagnosed each week in the US. MS can come in a few forms, but most common are relapsing and remitting where the patient has flares of the disease and periods of good health. Primary progressive MS is a more severe form, where the disease gets worse over time, and there are no periods of remission. The disease isn't fatal, and most patients can live an average lifespan, or very close to it.

A drug that has shown promise in patients in the early stages of primary progressive MS has recently been approved for use in Europe. The drug, ocrelizumab, is the first medication to be accepted in Europe for patients who are dealing with the early phase of the disease.

The drug was very effective in clinical trials on patients who had relapsing and remitting MS. In those studies, the drug cut the risk of relapses by 50%, slowed the rate of progression to disabling symptoms and was even shown to reduce the number of lesions seen on MRI scans, compared to patients who were taking beta-interferon medications. In patients with primary progressive MS, there was still a benefit, however. Those who used ocrelizumab were 24 percent less likely to experience increased disability than patients who had been assigned to take a placebo.

The decision to approve the drug is a welcome one for organizations that fund research and advocate for awareness. Linden Muirhead, a spokeswoman for The MS Trust in the UK, stated, "Over the past ten years the drug landscape for those with the more common relapsing-remitting MS has changed considerably, but ocrelizumab represents the first drug to be on the horizon for those with progressive disease. Even though it won't be suitable for everyone, the improvements that have been demonstrated through the clinical trials can make a great deal of difference to people's everyday lives, helping them stay in work and retain their independence. People with progressive MS do not always get the care they need, and we are hopeful that this new drug may lead to a greater focus on their needs."

There is still some work to do before the drug is widely available. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will decide on whether or not to offer the drug on the National Health Service (NHS) in England and Wales. Northern Ireland can then decide to adopt the recommendation of NICE. In Scotland, the decision will be made by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC). The video included here features patients who have benefitted from the drug, take a look.

Sources iNews, MS Society, Healthline

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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