MS news notes: Ocrevus, assistive devices, virtual reality, Briumvi

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

Study: Starting Ocrevus early is better than later

The MS News Today story “AAN 2023: Early use of Ocrevus lowers disease activity in relapsing MS” provides more evidence to support the belief that fast treatment with a high-efficacy disease-modifying therapy (DMT) is the best way to attack MS. It’s a philosophy I agree with.

The study, funded by the Roche subsidiary Genentech, which markets Ocrevus (ocrelizumab), compared people who started treatments less than two years after they were diagnosed with those who started it later. After nine years of treatment, nearly half of the early group showed no evidence of disease activity, compared with only about a quarter of the latter group.

The first DMTs weren’t approved until over a decade after I was diagnosed in 1980. I wonder what my life would be like if Ocrevus, or even a much less-effective DMT, had been available back then.

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New assistive devices designed for people with disabilities

What happens when engineering students put their heads together with nursing students for a year to work on a project to help others? In this case, as reported in “‘Faces on Design’ project unveils assistive devices for patients,” they came up with some new devices to help people with MS and other physical conditions.

One of the devices is a shower chair for an MS patient that consists of a swivel plate, a sliding mechanism, and a brake system. There’s a picture of the prototype of this device on the “Faces on Design” website. It looks very useful, very cool, and something I could see myself using at some point. Thanks to the students at University of Detroit Mercy in Michigan for their innovation.

Virtual reality might help people with MS keep their balance

I strapped on a virtual reality headset once to take a trip through the French countryside at a virtual reality (VR) exhibit of the artist Vincent van Gogh. I’m glad I was sitting for the experience, because I think VR might have created a balance problem for me had I been standing.

My experience is considered immersive VR, as my headset provided a 360-degree view of a computer-generated environment. In rehabilitation, it’s more common to use non-immersive VR, in which participants interact with an environment displayed on a computer screen.

The story “Virtual reality therapy can improve balance in patients: Meta-analysis” reports on an analysis of mostly non-immersive VR studies. The analysis concludes that virtual reality therapy may have a short-term positive effect on MS patients by improving their balance and reducing their fear of falling. The researchers believe this happens because these artificial environments can “promote the reorganization of sensorimotor circuits, resulting in an improvement of postural balance and motor skills necessary to maintain dynamic balance.”

A J-code is a big deal for Briumvi

Have you ever heard of a J-code? I hadn’t until I read “Briumvi’s permanent J-code will aid reimbursement for MS patients.” It turns out that a J-code is a billing code used by Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial insurers in the U.S. Having a permanent J-code makes billing and reimbursement easier. That, in turn, can make it easier to access that coded medication.

Briumvi (ublituximab-xiiy) has been prescribed to more than 400 patients since its approval late last year. TG Therapeutics says more than 50% of them have the medication covered by their insurance, and the pharmaceutical company hopes the J-code designation will increase that number.

Briumvi’s code, which becomes effective on July 1, is J2329.

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.


Jackie Hajji avatar

Jackie Hajji

Hi Ed, I was diagnosed in 1995 and there were 3 DMDs at the time. I wonder about what my life would be like now had Ocrevus been available then too. Neither of us would have the perspective we've developed (or as I think of my MS superpower) along the way.

I also had the same feeling of being grateful to be sitting while wearing the VR headsets during the Van Gogh experience. But I'll say it sure felt great to feel like I was running through the fields, something I haven't been able to do in years!

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Jackie -

You experienced almost what I did at Van Gogh, although mine was riding through the fields as I was sitting on my scooter. As for the DMTs, I never thought of our journey as developing perspective...but it certainly has. Thanks for taking the time to drop a note.



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