I Have MS and I’m Very Lucky

National Nurses Week was earlier this month. I’m a little late saying it, but, “Thank you, nurses.” And doctors. I’m really a lucky guy. Lucky to have had fabulous nurses. Lucky to have had a couple of top-notch neurologists. My luck began in August 1980 with Dr. Stanley…

#AAN2018 – Stem Cell Transplant is Effective Treatment for ‘Aggressive’ MS, Study Shows

Autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, also known as aHSCT, has been shown to be safe and highly effective to treat patients with "aggressive" multiple sclerosis. Tested in 19 patients, transplantation of stem cells was found to induce clinically meaningful improvements in disability. These findings were shared at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in Los Angeles, California. aHSCT uses a patient’s own healthy bone marrow stem cells, in combination with a much less aggressive chemotherapy and/or radiation regimen, to prepare the patient for the transplant. Previous studies have suggested that aHSCT is an effective strategy to treat patients with highly active relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) who do not respond to available disease-modifying therapies (DMTs), and international guidelines advocate for its use in patients with "aggressive" MS. To further demonstrate the potential of aHSCT as a treatment for "aggressive" MS, a research team evaluated its safety and effectiveness in MS patients who had not been treated previously with DMTs. A total of 19 patients were treated across several clinical centers: seven patients were from Sheffield, U.K., seven from Uppsala, Sweden, four from Ottawa, Canada, and one patient was from Florence, Italy. All patients received aHSCT between May 2004 and May 2017. In addition to aHSCT, patients were treated with BEAM (carmustine, etoposide, cytarabine, melphalan) chemotherapy plus antithymocyte globulin (ATG) to reduce transplant rejection, or with Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide) with ATG, or the triple combination of Cytoxan, ATG, plus busulfan as conditioning regimens. Patients had a median age of 33 years at diagnosis and received the aHSCT by a median time of nine years after symptom onset. They had a median disability score of 6.5 before the treatment, as determined by the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). After a median follow-up period of 30 months, patients had a median EDSS score of 2.0, which represented a median improvement of 2 points (the higher the score, the worse the patient's disability level). None of the patients had clinical relapse following the transplant of stem cells. Only three patients developed new brain lesions detectable by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at the first six-month follow-up evaluation, but no additional new lesions were detected in the following scans. The adverse effects reported during the study were comparable to those previously observed in similar treatments. No deaths related to the treatment were reported. Based on these preliminary results, the researchers concluded that aHSCT is “safe and highly effective in inducing rapid and sustain remission” in highly active MS, and "was associated with a significant improvement of [patient’s] level of disability.” “aHSCT should be considered as first line therapy in patients with ‘aggressive’ MS,” the team concluded. Another study presented at the AAN 2018 meeting further supports these findings, demonstrating the superior effectiveness of aHSCT over conventional DMTs for RRMS.

I Hope My MS Treatments Are Done for Good

With apologies to Edgar Allan Poe, quoth the Lemmie, “Nevermore.” As I write this, the final brown bag of Lemtrada (alemtuzumab) has just begun to drip into a vein in my left arm. If all goes “as advertised,” this will be the final disease-modifying therapy I’ll ever receive.

What’s Hot and What’s Not Among MS Therapies?

The newest kids on the MS block, disease-modifying therapies (DMT) such as Genentech’s Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) and Sanofi Genzyme’s Lemtrada (alemtuzumab), are attracting a lot of interest these days. But, some DMTs that have been around for more than two decades are still being prescribed by a lot of neurologists.

#MSParis2017 – Researchers Disagree on Feasibility of Using Disease-modifying Therapies in RIS Patients

Radiologically isolated syndrome (RIS) is a rare and relatively recent condition in which people have multiple sclerosis (MS)-like brain and spinal cord lesions without showing disease activity. But since the establishment of the RIS diagnosis, researchers have not reached an agreement on whether these patients should receive MS disease-modifying therapies.

MSParis2017 Will Look at New MS Diagnosis Criteria, and a Lot More

The year’s largest gathering of multiple sclerosis “minds” starts on Oct. 25 in Paris. More than 8,000 neurologists, researchers and others who specialize in treating and curing MS will be attending MSParis2017. It’s a joint meeting of the European and the Americas Committee for Research in Multiple Sclerosis…

Younger MS Patients Who Are Hospitalized May Be at Higher Risk of Quitting Treatment, Study Reports

MS patients who start treatment at a younger age, and whose condition requires hospitalization, are more likely to stop treatment, a Canadian study reports. The research, published in the journal Dovepress, dealt with the main reasons Canadian patients quit first-line injected disease-modifying therapies, or DMTs. It was titled “Persistence to disease-modifying therapies for multiple sclerosis in a Canadian cohort.” DMTs can reduce MS activity, but patients must stick with them in order for them to be effective. “There is currently a paucity of clinical trial data on what happens to individuals when they discontinue DMT," the researchers wrote. "However, recent preliminary evidence from observational studies suggest increased relapses and disability in those who discontinue DMT." Researchers sought to identify MS patients at higher risk of discontinuing treatment. They looked at Manitoba Province's medical database to identify the types of drugs MS patients were taking, and for how long. The analysis covered 721 patients who received injected beta-interferons or Copaxone between 1996 and 2011, and whom doctors followed for at least a year. Teva manufactures Copaxone, whose generic name is glatiramer acetate. The mean age of the patients in the study was 37.6 years, and 74.2 percent were women. Researchers defined a discontinuation of a DMT as a 90-day or longer gap in treatment. A third of the patients were treated with beta-interferon-1b, either Bayer HealthCare's Betaferon/Betaseron or Novartis' Extavia. It was the first such therapy available in Manitoba. Twenty-three percent of patients received beta-interferon-1a, either Biogen's Avonex or Merck's Rebif. And 21 percent received Copaxone. The median time before a patient discontinued a DMT was 4.2 years. Although 62.6 percent of patients discontinued treatment at some point, 57.4 percent either reinitiated it or switched to a different DMT. Patients who were on DMT at least a year were more likely to stay with it than those who stopped in the first year. Importantly, patients who started a DMT at a younger age were more likely to stop taking it than older patients. “Our results are also consistent with previous work examining persistence for other chronic medication classes, including statins, antihypertensives, bisphosphonates, and oral antidiabetic agents, where the risk for discontinuing drugs declined in a linear fashion with age,” the researchers wrote. The team also found that 16 percent of patients had to be hospitalized overnight, with 3 percent of the cases due to MS-related complications. And these hospitalized patients were more likely to stop their DMT treatment earlier, the researchers said. Summing up, the team said: "Subjects who were younger when starting a DMT, had prior MS-related hospitalizations, were more recently diagnosed with MS, or had a greater lag time between their MS diagnosis and DMT initiation were more likely to discontinue therapy." Although "not all of the factors identified with discontinuing DMT" can be modified, "they may help practitioners enhance MS care by identifying individuals who may be at particular risk for DMT discontinuation," the researchers concluded.

MS Drug Costs: The Elephant in the Examination Room

A lot of factors go into our decisions when we select the drug we’re going to use to fight our multiple sclerosis. How well will it work? What are the possible side effects and how serious could they be? How will using the drug (taking a pill, giving myself a…

Pills, Shots or Infusions for Your MS?

Oral multiple sclerosis meds appear, more and more, to be the first choice of patients who are just beginning to receive an MS treatment. A recent report by the independent marketing research firm Spherix Global Insights shows that oral disease-modifying therapies captured a significantly higher…

ICER Releases Draft Report on Disease-modifying Therapies for MS, Welcomes Comment

The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) has released a Draft Evidence Report evaluating the comparative clinical effectiveness and value of disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) for patients with relapsing-remitting and primary-progressive forms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Through Dec. 21, patients, the public, and other stakeholders can access the 82-page report and…