MS News that Caught My Eye Last Week: Rituxan, Medical Marijuana for Canadians, Extavia, Atira Trial
This is a study that identifies which disease-modifying drugs new MS patients stuck with and which they gave up. And, why they made those choices. But the study is small and was limited to patients in two areas of Sweden. In the U.S., Rituxan isn’t approved to treat MS, but it is being prescribed “off-label.” It would be difficult, if not impossible, to mirror this research in the States under these conditions. Just the same, the information in the Swedish study is verrrrry interesting.
When they stop taking Rituxan, it usually isn’t for lack of effectiveness or side effects — the reasons that lead to the discontinuation of the other drugs, according to the Karolinska Institutet researchers.
A lot of MS patients sing the praises of medical marijuana, especially blends that contain a mixture that favors CBD over THC (relaxation over “buzz”). By next month, Canadians may have a supplier who will provide this MMJ online, for those who are eligible. This is getting to be quite a business.
United Greeneries plans to launch online retail sales of medical cannabis in February for Canadians covered by the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations — a program for which certain multiple sclerosis (MS) patients may be eligible.
United Greeneries, a unit of Harvest One Cannabis, an umbrella company that also owns Switzerland’s Satipharm, has a medicinal cannabis cultivation and sales license. That allows Harvest One to not only sell but also commercially cultivate cannabis in a federally regulated environment.
I had a knee-jerk “are you kidding me?” reaction to this recommendation. The patient in me said, “I want to be able to choose the treatment that my doctor and I think will work best for me.” But, after cooling down, I realized that there is a solid argument to be made for choosing the least costly option IF the effectiveness is the same as that of more expensive drugs. But MS is a strange disease, affecting each of us a little differently. A drug that’s good for one might not be good for another, no matter what a study might say. So, “patient” wins over “bean counter.”
A British board that recommends what treatments the National Health Service should cover has advised the system to use only Extavia (interferon beta 1b) as a treatment for MS patients who continue to have relapses.
Cost was at the heart of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s preliminary decision, which applies to both relapsing-remitting and secondary progressive MS patients. Five therapies that are as effective as Extavia are more expensive, according to the organization, known by its acronym NICE.
This clinical trial began enrolling subjects in Australia. Now, it’s being opened to MS patients in the U.S. Soon, trial subjects will also be sought in Europe.
The experimental drug is called ATA188. It uses T-cells to attack rogue B-cells. And it’s designed to be used with both relapsing and progressive forms of MS. But the number of patients recruited will be very small; only 60 will be enrolled across all three continents. Also, in Phase I, researchers are only looking at safety. Dosage and efficacy would come in later studies. Well, you have to start somewhere.
The study was initially launched in Australia, but with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) having cleared the company’s application, the trial will now include study sites across the U.S.
Atara also intends to start recruiting patients in Europe.
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