The study, “Severe COVID-19 infection in a patient with multiple sclerosis treated with fingolimod,” was published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.
Marketed by Novartis, Gilenya was the first oral disease-modifying therapy (DMT) approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Commission to treat people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). The FDA subsequently extended its use to relapsing forms of MS.
The medication works by retaining immune cells in lymphoid organs (e.g., lymph nodes) where they are produced, preventing them from reaching and attacking the brain and spinal cord. By doing so, Gilenya effectively reduces inflammation, disease progression, and the risk of MS relapses.
A potential consequence of its use is that patients may develop lymphopenia, or an abnormally low number of white blood cells circulating in the blood. For this reason, patients on Gilenya are at a slightly higher risk of respiratory tract infections.
Physicians in Germany reported the case of an RRMS patient who had been on Gilenya treatment for years when she infected with the coronavirus, known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS CoV-2).
The 57-year-old woman arrived at a hospital complaining of shortness of breath (dyspnea), fever, and a dry cough that had lasted for seven days.
A chest CT scan revealed she had several lung opacities (white regions) indicative of fluid accumulation due to interstitial pneumonia in both lungs, indicating “a severe COVID-19 infection,” the investigators wrote.
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