Author Archives: Ed Tobias

‘Easy Rider’ Dreams? Say Yes to the Motorcycle

Reading some social media posts the other day, I found myself humming a line from a late 1960s Arlo Guthrie song: “I don’t want a pickle. Just want to ride on my motor-sickle.” I didn’t think it was possible for someone with MS to ride a “motor-sickle.” It…

A Warning About ‘Stem Cell Tourism’

I regularly see comments on various social media sites from MS patients who have traveled, or who plan to travel, outside the U.S. to be treated with stem cells. Some of these patients have reported excellent results and a reversal of symptoms. Others have died. Many MS patients…

MS Docs Tell How They Choose Treatments

What does your neurologist consider when he or she is deciding how best to treat your multiple sclerosis? A recent report from Spherix Global Insights, a business intelligence and market research company that looks at drug trends every quarter, sheds some light on that. In my…

MS Therapies: What’s Hot, What’s Not

Ocvevus (ocrelizumab) is off to a running start, Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate) leads the pills and the four injectable multiple sclerosis drugs are being used by fewer MS patients. But Copaxone (glatiramer acetate injection) remains the leader of the pack of the disease-modifying therapies. Those are…

Do MS Patients in the UK Get the Right Treatment Quickly Enough?

About two years ago, a report by the European Multiple Sclerosis Platform stated that only 21% of MS patients in the United Kingdom were receiving any kind of disease-modifying therapy. This is compared to 40% in France and 69% in Germany. Now, the U.K. branch of pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has published a report of its own, "The Missing Pieces." The report tries to answer, "Why is this so?" Here are some of the answers that were received online from a small group of healthcare professionals and MS patients: Nearly three-quarters of U.K. healthcare professionals think that people with MS face delays in starting on disease-modifying treatments (DMTs). Nearly one-quarter of MS patients there reported being unaware of some treatments that could help delay the onset of disability. Only half of people with MS say disability was discussed with their healthcare professional when they were first diagnosed, yet 69% of the healthcare professionals say it was discussed. Only a third of those patients say that "disability" is discussed in their regular MS appointments. Two-thirds of people with MS say that maintaining independence is their main treatment goal, followed by reducing relapses. The report also says that healthcare professionals believe the primary reason that DMTs are slow to be prescribed is lack of access in the U.K. to neurologists who specialize in MS. And, it says, 62% of MS specialist nurses and 47% of MS specialists thought this delay is also because of a shortage of healthcare facilities needed to deliver DMTs. Now, it needs to be noted that this survey involved only 100 MS specialist healthcare professionals and 120 MS patients in the U.K. And, as mentioned earlier, the survey was conducted by Sanofi, which claims to be the fourth largest pharmaceutical company in the world. Sanofi makes two big-time MS drugs: Aubagio (teriflunomide) and Lemtrada (alemtuzumab). Naturally, it has a vested interest in seeing that MS patients are treated with DMTs. (Full disclosure: I recently was compensated by Sanofi Genzyme to attend a meeting of "digital influencers" that the company held at its U.S. headquarters.) But drug sales aside, a case certainly can be made for treating MS patients with DMTs quickly after patients are diagnosed, and many drugs currently on the market have shown that they are able to modify the course of MS. And there's a case to be made about a need for better patient-healthcare provider communication. So, my question is: How do MS patients in the U.K. feel about access to DMTs? And to MS care, in general? Is this small report correct about the lack of knowledge by patients about their treatment options? Is it correct about the lack of MS specialists and resources in the U.K.? Do MS patients outside of the U.K. have similar concerns?

Fighting in Court Over MS Generics

Biogen is a big pharmaceutical company that produces a half-dozen MS drugs. Among them are Tysabri, Avonex and Tecfidera. And Biogen is doing all it can to protect its turf, particularly when it comes to its best seller, Tecfidera. Last month the company filed lawsuits against several…

She Has MS, She Voted for Obamacare, and She’s Worried

Donna Edwards has multiple sclerosis. Edwards is currently unemployed. But a year ago she had a well-paying job with excellent medical benefits. Edwards was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. In fact, she represented the congressional district where I once lived. (Courtesy of former U.S.

Researchers Working on a Band-Aid to Replace Shots

How cool is this? Though it's not yet related to multiple sclerosis, researchers are developing a Band-Aid-size patch that can inoculate someone with the flu vaccine. The patch is made up of 100 solid, water-soluble microneedles that are just long enough to penetrate the skin. They’re contained in an area about the size of a dime. Adhesive helps the patch grip the skin during the administration of the vaccine, which is encapsulated in the needles and is released in about 20 minutes, as the needle tips dissolve. The patch is then peeled away and discarded like a used bandage strip. The researchers, working at Georgia Tech and Emory University, report that in their Phase I clinical trial the patch was just as effective in generating immunity against the flu as the traditional flu shot. They believe the microneedle patch can save money because it is easily self-administered, it can be transported and stored without refrigeration, and it’s easy to dispose of without needing a sharps waste container. Above all, says principal investigator Nadine Rouphael, MD, of the Emory University School of Medicine, “having the option of a flu vaccine that can be easily and painlessly self-administered could increase coverage and protection by this important vaccine.” Now, I don’t want to jump the gun. Although the researchers are working to develop these microneedle patches for use with other vaccines, including measles, rubella and polio, they’ve only completed the first phase of their clinical trials. They’re now planning a Phase 2 trial with more participants. Whether MS drugs might, someday, be administered this way is anyone’s guess. But, it certainly would be nice if one day, instead of jabbing yourself in the thigh for your scheduled MS shot, you could deliver your MS medication by just putting a Band-Aid on your skin.

My Lemtrada Journey: A 6–Month Report

It’s been a little over six months since I completed Round 1 of my Lemtrada infusions, so it’s time again to ask myself, “How am I doing?” The answer: I’m not sure. For many years, my brain MRI has remained unchanged. I can’t remember the last time…

Ocrevus, Hope, and a Suicide Postponed

Several months ago, I wrote a column about Andrew Barclay. Barclay died in an assisted suicide in December. He’d had multiple sclerosis for many years. Colin Campbell is a 56-year-old MS patient who lives in Inverness, Scotland. He also wanted to die. In fact, he was scheduled…

Hyping MS Headlines Is Uncool

Once again, over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been blasted with headlines trumpeting a new MS discovery. Last month there were headlines about an inexpensive acne drug that supposedly could be used to reduce the symptoms of early MS. This month it’s headlines about a “cure”…

My Opportunity to Speak with ‘Big Pharma’

I was in Boston last week at the headquarters of Sanofi Genzyme. Yes, the big drug company. They brought together several people they consider to be “digital influencers” to pick their brains about what’s on the minds of people like you, who read what we write. Sanofi…

Jumping to Conclusions About a MS Treatment

Those of us with multiple sclerosis are always on the alert for new treatments. So, when a common, inexpensive and easy-to-administer drug recently appeared on the radar as a possible MS treatment, it wasn’t surprising that dozens of social media folks jumped to relay word of it. Their…

An ‘MS House’ That Lets You Walk in My Shoes

(Photo by Andreea Antonovici) A few months ago, I wrote about a bicycle that mimics the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Now, I’ve discovered that there’s an “MS House” that allows a healthy person to experience some of what life is like for someone who lives with MS.

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