MS News Notes: DMT Costs, Copaxone, EBV, Rituximab

Columnist Ed Tobias comments on the week's top MS news

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by Ed Tobias |

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Welcome to “MS News Notes,” where I comment on multiple sclerosis (MS) news stories that caught my eye last week. Here’s a look at what’s been happening:

Is cost a factor when deciding DMT use?

Cost may be the elephant in the room when people with MS are deciding which disease-modifying therapy (DMT) to use. As Margarida Maia reports in the MS News Today story “Newer Neurologic Therapies Costly, Less Likely To Be Used,” less than 20% of people with MS and other neurological diseases are using the newest, most effective DMTs. Is this due to the higher cost of these medications, or is there another reason? More studies are needed to answer that question, the report says.

“In order for neurologists to provide people with the highest quality care, it is imperative that new drugs are accessible and affordable to the people who need them,” says Orly Avitzur, MD, president of the American Academy of Neurology. Is treatment cost a factor for you? Have you ever discussed cost with your neurologist when making a treatment decision? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Copaxone shown to slow brain loss

Copaxone (glatiramer acetate injection) is one of the oldest DMTs, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1996. Compared with newer DMTs, its efficacy is limited. Yet here we are, more than a quarter-century later, seeing a report that Copaxone was found to slow the loss of cerebral gray matter and whole brain volume in people with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) after they’d used it for two years.

Patricia Valerio provides the study’s details in the story “2-year Copaxone Treatment in RRMS Found to Slow Loss of Gray Matter.”

EBV cells the target of another potential treatment

The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) appears to be a significant risk factor for MS, and several pharmaceutical companies are trying to find a way to control or eliminate it. One is investigating the use of CD8-positive T-cells, which are immune cells that can kill damaged or dangerous cells.

In the story “Tevogen Plans Novel T-cell Therapies Aimed at EBV in MS, Cancer,” Teresa Carvalho reports on Tevogen Bio’s plans to develop T-cell therapies.

A longer lag between rituximab treatments?

Rituximab (marketed as Rituxan in the U.S., Canada, and Japan and as MabThera elsewhere) is a cancer therapy that’s also used off-label to treat MS. The standard treatment has been an infusion every six months. However, as Maia’s MS News Today story “No Increase in Disease Activity With Longer Lag in Rituximab Treatment” explains, a gap between infusions of eight months, or even much longer, may be possible with a relapse rate the same as, or even lower than, the six-month standard. And the longer gap may also reduce the medication’s side effects.

What MS news story of the week did you find most interesting? Please share in the comments below. 

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Barbara Guibord avatar

Barbara Guibord

Cost of the newer drugs is totally prohibitive for average income patients, who can afford $90,000.00 to over a$120,000.00 per year????? Drug companies only are concerned with profits!!

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Barbara,

It's true that the prices are extremely high. It's also true that, like other companies, they're in business to make a profit. Insurance, whether private or government, often covers a lot of these costs and the pharmaceutical companies often cover what insurance does not. Their patient programs also cover the cost of their medications for those who don't have insurance. I'm afraid that's the way it's going to be until the day the U.S. joins most of the world's other countries and provides free healthcare for all, if that day ever arrives.



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