MS news notes: Ocrevus, MDX-2201, online cannabis clinic, WHO

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,” a Monday morning column in which I comment on multiple sclerosis (MS) news stories that caught my eye last week. Here’s a look at what’s been happening:

Study shows Ocrevus lowers risk of MS progression

This seems to be just what the doctor ordered, or at least hoped for, when prescribing Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) as a treatment for MS patients. Ocrevus is one of the high-efficacy disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) that aim to limit MS progression, and this study reports that it does.

The article “Higher blood levels of Ocrevus lower confirmed disability progression risk” reports that a review of three Phase 3 clinical trials of Ocrevus has determined that people with high levels of the medication in their bloodstream had lower disability progression rates. This was independent of reductions in their relapse rates. And some icing on the cake: A higher exposure to Ocrevus didn’t lead to an increased rate of severe side effects or infections.

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Aging MS Patients Are Focus of UT Dell Medical School Initiative

New partnership to attack Epstein-Barr virus

The pharmaceutical giant Merck, known as MSD outside North America, is joining with ModeX Therapeutics to develop a vaccine to protect against the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). EBV is believed to be a significant risk factor for developing MS.

The story “ModeX teams up with Merck to develop MDX-2201 vaccine for EBV” provides details of the collaboration between the companies to continue preclinical development of MDX-2201. They also plan to file an investigational new drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, requesting clearance to test the experimental vaccine in clinical trials.

An EBV vaccine could be the key to protecting people against MS. Let’s hope one is found quickly.

Online cannabis clinic in UK targets MS pain

Those of us with MS know that pain is often associated with our illness. We also know that many physicians are reluctant to prescribe cannabis products for it.

Treat It claims to be the U.K.’s first online medical cannabis clinic aimed at chronic pain management. It promises a medical consultation (at a cost to the patient), followed by the ability to have a cannabis pain product delivered directly to the patient’s door.

That would be welcome news to me if I lived in the U.K. But as “Online medical cannabis clinic for MS pain management opens in UK” reports, the only licensed form of cannabis in the U.K. is the oral spray Sativex (nabiximols). It’s unclear what other forms of cannabis will be made available.

WHO asked to consider 3 MS treatments as ‘essential’

The World Health Organization (WHO) maintains a list of medications it considers to be essential; in other words, these medications “satisfy the priority health care needs of the population.”

Many DMTs are available to people with MS — I’ve been treated with four of them — but access can be difficult for people in lower- and middle-income countries. Gaining a place on the WHO’s essential medications list can prod countries to improve access and possibly even subsidize the cost of those treatments.

As “WHO asked to add 3 MS treatments to its list of ‘essential medicines’” reports, the MS International Federation is asking the WHO to add to its list rituximab (sold as Rituxan), Mavenclad (cladribine), and glatiramer acetate (sold as Copaxone, with generics available).

A WHO expert committee is expected to meet in late April to discuss the request.

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.


Marion E. Ramer avatar

Marion E. Ramer

I am wondering how much does a Cannibis card cost??

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Marion,

It differs for each state. When I investigated one in Maryland a few years ago I think it was $50. Try Googling "medical marijuana" and the name of your state.


Brian Shanabrough avatar

Brian Shanabrough

In PA,
1,Apply to state online
2.get Dr.Rx ( I paid $99 for the Dr, phone visit ,of 10 min.. I told him of my diagnosis and the Rx)
3. I had my card in 5 days
4.If you are low income the State waives the $50 card fee.
Note: Also,If you are low income the State will give you a $50 monthly credit towards your weed

Bobette avatar


I've been reading news letters years now cause all relates to what going through but not sure what the next step is to find out if it really is rrms or what every time I go to the doctor which is hard for me to even talk to once we go to mental health but because of the going blind hard to see some days or the falling down all the time or hard to walk getting hard to talk it's always been hard to talk to people and now it's getting worse I'm embarrassed to go out I hate having to stay home can't drive anymore I don't want to rely on people but I need to get my social security disability but I haven't gotten an official diagnosis the doctor suggested it might be MS in 18 2018 surprise just getting worse but haven't got any further than it might be but all the symptoms are right there we should do what to do with that let's go it's going to help to get me there

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Bobette -

I'm sorry you've had all of those problems. Have you seen a neurologist who specializes in MS since your "maybe" diagnosis five years ago. A definitive diagnosis might lead the way to a treatment that might help you?



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