MS News Notes: Briumvi, COVID-19, PML, disability rights victory

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

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by Ed Tobias |

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Note: This column was updated March 30, 2023, to remove the statement that Briumvi is more potent than Ocrevus or Kesimpta as there have been no trials comparing the three therapies’ potency.

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:

Briumvi gets a good reception from neurologists

In early January, I wrote about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Briumvi (ublituximab). It joins Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) and Kesimpta (ofatumumab) in the class of disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) that target B-cells in the immune system that carry the CD20 protein.

Ocrevus requires a twice-yearly, four-hour infusion of 600 mg, while Kesimpta is a monthly, 20 mg injection. Briumvi is a 450 mg a dose requiring only a one-hour, twice-yearly infusion.

In the three months since Briumvi was approved, it seems to be catching on among the neurologist community. The MS News Today story “Half of US neurologists expect to test Briumvi in the next 6 months” reports on an analysis showing good acceptance of Briumvi by neurologists.

Have you heard about this new treatment? Have you talked with your doctor about it, or do you plan to? Please leave a comment at the end of this column.

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A COVID-19 infection may increase MS symptoms

I’ve had all five of the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots available in the U.S. I’ve also had a case of COVID-19, the mildness of which I attribute to the vaccinations.

After reading the story “Greater MS disability reported in patients with COVID-19 infection,” I’m glad I received those shots. I believe they protected me against the increased MS symptoms the story reports on, as well as more serious COVID-19 illness.

A call for a genetic testing to limit PML risk

One of the concerns of people with MS who are treated with certain DMTs, particularly Tysabri (natalizumab), is that they could contract progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), a serious brain infection caused by reactivation of the common John Cunningham virus (JCV).

I was treated with Tysabri for about seven years with no ill effects. I attribute that, at least in part, to careful monitoring of the level of JCV in my blood. When it rose to a level that concerned my neurologist, she quickly switched me to another DMT.

Now, as reported in “Experts call for testing for PML risk genes to guide MS treatments,” a pair of scientists is calling for a test to be developed to identify people at higher risk of developing PML.

“The availability of a simple, relatively inexpensive test that can identify the genes that put one at risk for PML would be enormously helpful in the management of patients,” the researchers wrote in Frontiers in Neurology.

It seems as if that would be a useful tool in the patient-neurologist decision-making process. It certainly would’ve helped me when I was deciding whether to begin Tysabri treatment.

US government drops diplomatic service roadblock for people with MS

I didn’t know that people with MS and several other disabilities were blocked from serving as U.S. diplomats. Fortunately, that prohibition has just been dropped.

But, as reported in “People with MS now eligible for US Foreign Service,” it took settling a lawsuit filed way back in 2006 to accomplish it. The settlement, and its sweeping policy change, yielded more than 100 immediate employment opportunities for applicants. It also means a $37.5 million payment to people who were denied diplomatic jobs because of a disability. That amounts to an average individual payout of more than $150,000 to most of them.

Bravo to those who filed the class-action lawsuit and persevered through two State Department appeals.

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.


Annmarie Passaro avatar

Annmarie Passaro

I have secondary MS and would like to know best ms drug to treat this that's safe I've been off medicine for ms since october 1st ready to start new medication.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Annmarie,

I'm not a healthcare professional and everyone with MS is different. A medication that's right for one person may be wrong for another. So, I can't suggest a treatment for you. It's something you need to discuss with your neurologist. However, there are some on-line tools that I suggest you look at before you have that discussion. They may give you ideas about which treatments to ask about. I wrote something about this just a few weeks ago. Here's a link to my column:



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