Medicinal treatments such as oral agents and infusions are benefiting multiple sclerosis patients.
Multiple sclerosis is a nervous system disease that affects your brain and spinal cord. Some of the symptoms include weakness in the arms and legs, fatigue and blindness.
Doctors, researchers and the Food and Drug Administration are currently discovering new advancements in treatment for MS.
Constance Easterling said that the new oral medication, Tecfidera, benefits MS survivors if they are frustrated with their injection medication.
Easterling, a clinical coordinator for the MS Care Center of Neurological Services of Orlando, has focused on the study of multiple sclerosis since 1998.
“Many people are looking for an oral agent instead of an injectable,” Easterling said. “Patients are tired of the injections and the pain that they cause.”
Tecfidera, a new oral pill for MS patients, is currently awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration. This oral treatment has shown in its trial that when taken twice daily it can decrease the chance of a relapse by 53 percent. The pending decision of Tecfidera will be decided on March 27.
Leah Delorenzo, a 24-year-old graduate student at the University of Central Florida, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 18 years old when a neurologist in Tampa said that she had optic neuritis, a common symptom of MS. Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve that may cause sudden blindness. Delorenzo said that as a young student, she embraces what the newer generation drug that is the oral pill has brought to MS survivors.
Delorenzo was previously on Rebif, which caused bruising and lumpiness to her injection sites, Delorenzo said. Delorenzo began taking an oral agent instead of the injection and realized that it was a much better fit for her. Delorenzo has been taking Gilenya, the very first FDA approved oral drug in MS history.
“I really like the oral pills because I got sick of the injections,” Delorenzo said.
MS researchers are also looking at more potent medications for earlier use in treating MS. In the current Strive study being conducted by Scott Silliman, MS patients are being given Tysbari at an early stage of their diagnosis.
Silliman, an associate professor of neurology at UF Shands in Jacksonville, said that Tysabri is the strongest drug in the market for controlling MS. Tysabri is a monthly infusion that has to be given to patients in a lab. Because the drug is so aggressive, it is often considered to be used as a last resort treatment for MS patients who experience relapses frequently. Silliman’s purpose is to prove that the illness may not progress if it is treated with Tysabri when patients are first diagnosed.
“A lot of patients want to be treated aggressively at first,” Silliman said. “We are trying to understand the outcomes of patients if we use it early.”
Although the study has only been in progress for about a year, Silliman has seen some very positive results in his volunteers. One patient was in the need of using a cane in order to get around due to paralysis in both of her legs. After a few infusions of Tysabri, she is now able to walk on her own without the assistance of her cane, Silliman said.
March is MS Awareness month and cities all over are hosting Walk MS 2013 to raise funds for a world-free of MS.