As a 61-year-old woman diagnosed in 2010 with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), I was overjoyed when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the therapy Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) in March 2017. Because Ocrevus is the first treatment approved to possibly slow the progression of PPMS, the FDA’s green light offered me much-needed hope.
As I write this, in August 2018, I am sharing information about Ocrevus that comes from neurologist visits and my own research. I am optimistically cautious in a lot of things, especially medicine, so I have not yet tried Ocrevus.
I’m not writing to sway anyone to make a decision either in favor or against Ocrevus treatment. I know everyone’s MS situation is unique, and I would never attempt to do so.
If you follow my column, you know that I have seen seven neurologists over the last 10 years. When I asked the sixth neurologist about Ocrevus, he said I could be on the treatment plan, but not for more than five years due to my age. He reasoned that it would be difficult on my older body and it would leave me vulnerable to infections.
I recently started seeing a new neurologist who seems to be very knowledgeable and to have my best interest at heart. I believe she really wants to help me.
She is very upfront about my MS, and her advice to me about Ocrevus is that “the risks may outweigh the rewards.” The main determining factor, again, is my age. This neurologist, unlike the last, offered several valid reasons.
She said that Ocrevus has been shown to work best when lesions are active and enhanced, most likely at the time of diagnosis. She also explained to me that as we age, our immune systems can weaken.
Because PPMS already weakens my immune system, and because Ocrevus depletes certain B-cells, so it could further compromise my immune system. That could leave me vulnerable to dangerous infections.
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