Filtering Ads and Choosing What’s Best

Jennifer (Jenn) Powell avatar

by Jennifer (Jenn) Powell |

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neuropathy, positivity, husband, laughter, connecting, i am fine, self-care and MS, finding myself

I remember a time without televised ads promoting medication. We had access to information through our physician or a card catalog. Pharmaceuticals are now a mainstay on our airwaves. And although prevalent, these ads previously had been inapplicable to me.

Until now.

An ad for Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) aired a few days ago. I looked up from my computer and hung on every word. I watched smiling actors hold up two fingers. Two times a year, ran the narrative. Even myriad potential side effects sounded quasi-delightful.

After it aired, I sat transfixed. Would Ocrevus be better than my current regimen of Rituxan (rituximab)? The Ocrevus ad seems to be new in my TV market, while Rituxan is old. Ocrevus is labeled for multiple sclerosis, while Rituxan is labeled for leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But their mechanisms are similar, as both target B-cells.

An invisible scale appeared in my head: Ocrevus versus Rituxan. As my thoughts continued, so did the capitulation of balance. I closed my eyes and wondered if my current disease-modifying therapy (DMT) is effective.

Medical tests cannot provide me with certainty regarding this question. I constantly grapple with this truth. As my disease progresses, it is more challenging to accept. I do have new lesions in my cervical spine, but that does not negate the efficacy of my DMT. My disease also may progress faster without Rituxan. In the absence of empirical evidence to the contrary, I choose to believe this.

I called my neurologist to discuss my quandary. I am fortunate to have a remarkable physician who is always willing to talk about my concerns. We do not have a litmus to measure efficacy precisely. We do know that in my four years on Rituxan, I am somewhat stable despite progression. What does that mean? While my gait has worsened, I am still ambulatory. While my numbness has increased, I can still grasp objects. While my dysphasia has me frustrated, for the most part, it has remained stable.

My tolerance for Rituxan has been good. Side effects occur immediately after infusion and are unremarkable.

I am encouraged by my dilemma. It signals the imminent arrival of new and potentially better DMTs. As these medications emerge, touch base with your neurologist to determine which treatment plan is best for you.

In the time I have written this column, I have seen two Ocrevus ads. The relevance of DMTs for MS excites and inspires me. If the recent trend is any indication, this trajectory will continue skyward.

Tune in.

***

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 Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Pik avatar

Pik

Since 2013,was on Tecfidera,Gylenia,Plegrity. Was first from my doctor to try Ocrevus 7/17. Side effects minimal,but medicine fades away before 6months. 1st was 3months,2nd 2months,3rd 5wks& 4th done nothing. I got worse at faster pace. Lost my job,walk with cane,balance worse. Doctor said this is all i have for you. Told him i need daily DMT. So he quits practice, get a new hospital,doctor who listens,now on Aubagio, can walk around house without cane.Im happier now after 2years in the Ocrevus rut! Saw the commercial. Drug maker must be loosing revenue. Make it look so good on tv. I haven't seen data results for PPMS. In Europe, Ocrevus is used for RRMS,some SPMS,not PPMS. So what do they know,that USA doesn't & passing it on,saying it good for PPMS in America. Ocrevus started across the pond. I think its a money scam. New DMT's are in development. Other PPMS patients have got worse on it.RRMS people do good on it. Honestly i wouldn't recommend it for PPMS.

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Elle Smith avatar

Elle Smith

Getting Ocrevus treatments in Germany for my PPMS, with the same outcome. The effect fades with each infusion. Last one came with a persistent side effect of burning torso. A neurophatic pain. But it’s the only drug available for PPMS, since Rituxan is only approved as DMT in Sweden and Switzerland. The only upside is the slowing down of the disease progression, or keeping some symptoms at bay, e.g. blurred vision, swallowing, etc. I would’ve loved to receive Rituxan, but alas.

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Lynn avatar

Lynn

I had the same dilemma and stuck with Rituxan--it's off label, but it was tested in a small pilot study for MS. That's why Ocrevus was developed for MS, and the two drugs are nearly identical. It's a frustrating history, I wrote a short piece about it: https://areomagazine.com/2019/09/16/the-need-for-transparency-in-drug-information/
Best of luck with your DMT, I hope you stay stable!

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Jennifer (Jenn) Powell avatar

Jennifer (Jenn) Powell

Hi Lynn,

Thanks so much for commenting. I read your article and you hit the nail on the head.
Truly sketchy as they are (almost) identical. I hope you are doing well on rituxan. I continue to progress but choose to believe it would be faster without Rituxan. Additionally, I tolerate it reasonably well.

Again, thank you for taking the time to write.

Kindly,
Jenn

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Cynthia King avatar

Cynthia King

What’s the price difference? All these ms meds are grossly overpriced. Ocrevus is self pay $72000. If you have as established treatment with Rituxan and seems to be working, and you have insurance coverage, I’d stay. Prior authorization aside. If your doctor is happy I wouldn’t change. However, if you aren’t happy, I’d look into it. I went from Tysabri to Ocrevus due to two out of three risk factors. Tysabri did pull me out of what appeared to be a long, downward spiral.

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