MS News That Caught My Eye Last Week: COVID-19 Vaccines, Achtar Gel, Ublituximab, Pregnancy

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by Ed Tobias |

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Study: Anti-CD20 Therapies, Gilenya Lower Efficacy of COVID-19 Vaccines

This research adds more evidence to studies that have already shown that certain disease-modifying therapies reduce the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Those DMTs include Kesimpta (ofatumumab) and Ocrevus (ocrelizumab), plus rituximab, another anti-CD20 vaccine, that is sometimes used off-label to treat MS.

But keep in mind that any protection against the SARS CoV-2 virus is better than none, and multiple sclerosis (MS) groups around the world recommend people with MS get the COVID-19 vaccine, unless a patient’s neurologist recommends against it.

Certain treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS) — specifically, anti-CD20 antibody therapies and Gilenya (fingolimod) — are likely to reduce the effectiveness of vaccines for COVID-19, according to a new study.

“Highlighting groups who have mounted an inadequate vaccine response has already been helpful in guiding who should receive additional doses of the vaccine, and who may need to continue to take additional infection-prevention precautions over the winter,” Emma Tallantyre, co-author of the study and clinical senior lecturer in neurology at Cardiff University, said in a press release.

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Little Evidence Acthar Gel Better Than Cheaper Substitutes: Review

A single course of Acthar Gel may cost $100,000 or more, while a similar course of corticosteroids often costs less than $100. These researchers believe that the benefit received from Acthar Gel isn’t worth that price. They feel so strongly they recommend that publicly funded insurance programs, like Medicare or Medicaid, should not cover Acthar Gel treatment unless more studies are done on its efficacy. What do you think? Have you been treated with Acthar Gel? Is it worth the cost?

There is minimal evidence that the expensive anti-inflammatory medication Acthar Gel is more effective than inexpensive corticosteroids for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) and other diseases, according to a new review paper.

“We found no evidence where it was a conclusive slam dunk that this drug was superior to very cheap corticosteroids,” Daniel Hartung, a professor at Oregon Health and Science University and Oregon State University and co-author of the paper said in a press release.

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Ublituximab as Relapsing MS Therapy Under FDA Review

Good news: There’s another disease-modifying therapy (DMT) under review. Discouraging news: The approval being sought is only for use in people with relapsing MS. Out of more than 20 DMTs approved to treat MS, only one is approved for primary progressive MS (PPMS) and three for secondary progressive MS (SPMS). Why do pharmaceutical companies only rarely include people with PPMS or SPMS in clinical trials?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has agreed to review TG Therapeutics’ application seeking the approval of ublituximab (TG-1101) as a treatment for people with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS).

The FDA is expected to decide on or before Sept. 28. The agency is not currently planning to hold an advisory committee meeting to discuss the application. Such meetings are held to seek the advice of an independent panel of experts when the FDA has questions or concerns about the submitted clinical data.

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Pregnancy Poses Challenges to MS Management, Review Study Shows

If you plan to become pregnant, please read this full story, not just the first two paragraphs that I’ve copied and pasted below. The use of disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) is particularly complicated for women who want children. The study reported here says some of those DMTs may increase the risk of problems during pregnancy and some may not. These researchers say Beta-1a DMTs seem the safest, but DMT use before, during, and after pregnancy needs a careful risk-benefit analysis.

Women with multiple sclerosis (MS) who receive high-efficacy disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) before conception have a greater risk of relapses and disability progression during pregnancy than those given moderate-efficacy or no DMTs, according to a systematic review of studies.

Exclusive breastfeeding for at least two to four months, however, was associated with a significantly lower risk of relapses after delivery.

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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.

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