Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Aubagio May Cause Nail Loss, Researchers Report

Aubagio (teriflunomide) may lead to reversible nail loss, researchers at Italy's University of Bologna reported after reviewing the case of a 55-year-old woman with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. They described what happened to a patient who was referred to an MS clinic after experiencing acute optic neuritis — or inflammation of the optic nerve — three months earlier. Their report, “Nail loss after teriflunomide treatment: A new potential adverse event,” was published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders. Doctors had been treating the woman with intravenous methylprednisolone. Physicians had judged her slightly disabled, with an Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score of 3, but had not diagnosed her with MS. When she was diagnosed a few months later, she began receiving interferon beta-1a. It did not work, so doctors switched her to Sanofi Genzyme's Aubagio. At first, she tolerated the treatment well, having only slight nausea after taking the medication. Physicians did not detect signs of liver toxicity or high blood pressure, which are relatively common side effects of Aubagio. Roughly three months after starting the medication, however, the woman began having more trouble walking problems and had mild hair loss. Two and a half months later, she said her nails had started falling out in the past month. When doctors examined her, she had lost two nails, while others appeared to have stopped growing. They were thinner than normal and some had detached from the nail bed. In addition, her hair loss continued. She had not started using other drugs, new cosmetics, or changed her diet. A dermatologist excluded the possibility that the condition was the result of fungus, psoriasis, or other conditions that could cause nails to fall off. Because doctors suspected that Aubagio could be the cause of the nail loss, they recommended that she stopped taking it. The patient switched to Biogen's Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate) after a couple of weeks, and her nails started to grow again. This supported doctors’ idea that Aubagio had caused the nail loss, and that it was reversible. Nail growth is similar to that of hair, researchers said. The patient’s reaction could be an unusual version of the same process that makes people lose their hair when taking Aubagio, they said. Since nail loss is not described as a side effect of Aubagio on the medication's label, researchers urged MS specialists to consider the possibility if they see patients with the problem.  

Do MS Patients in the UK Get the Right Treatment Quickly Enough?

About two years ago, a report by the European Multiple Sclerosis Platform stated that only 21% of MS patients in the United Kingdom were receiving any kind of disease-modifying therapy. This is compared to 40% in France and 69% in Germany. Now, the U.K. branch of pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has published a report of its own, "The Missing Pieces." The report tries to answer, "Why is this so?" Here are some of the answers that were received online from a small group of healthcare professionals and MS patients: Nearly three-quarters of U.K. healthcare professionals think that people with MS face delays in starting on disease-modifying treatments (DMTs). Nearly one-quarter of MS patients there reported being unaware of some treatments that could help delay the onset of disability. Only half of people with MS say disability was discussed with their healthcare professional when they were first diagnosed, yet 69% of the healthcare professionals say it was discussed. Only a third of those patients say that "disability" is discussed in their regular MS appointments. Two-thirds of people with MS say that maintaining independence is their main treatment goal, followed by reducing relapses. The report also says that healthcare professionals believe the primary reason that DMTs are slow to be prescribed is lack of access in the U.K. to neurologists who specialize in MS. And, it says, 62% of MS specialist nurses and 47% of MS specialists thought this delay is also because of a shortage of healthcare facilities needed to deliver DMTs. Now, it needs to be noted that this survey involved only 100 MS specialist healthcare professionals and 120 MS patients in the U.K. And, as mentioned earlier, the survey was conducted by Sanofi, which claims to be the fourth largest pharmaceutical company in the world. Sanofi makes two big-time MS drugs: Aubagio (teriflunomide) and Lemtrada (alemtuzumab). Naturally, it has a vested interest in seeing that MS patients are treated with DMTs. (Full disclosure: I recently was compensated by Sanofi Genzyme to attend a meeting of "digital influencers" that the company held at its U.S. headquarters.) But drug sales aside, a case certainly can be made for treating MS patients with DMTs quickly after patients are diagnosed, and many drugs currently on the market have shown that they are able to modify the course of MS. And there's a case to be made about a need for better patient-healthcare provider communication. So, my question is: How do MS patients in the U.K. feel about access to DMTs? And to MS care, in general? Is this small report correct about the lack of knowledge by patients about their treatment options? Is it correct about the lack of MS specialists and resources in the U.K.? Do MS patients outside of the U.K. have similar concerns?

Aubagio for Relapsing-Remitting MS Now Funded in Alberta

Genzyme, a Sanofi company with over 30 years of dedication to researching and developing novel treatments for rare and orphan diseases, has just announced the Alberta Drug Program has finally decided to include Aubagio® (teriflunomide) 14mg in the provincial drug formulary, indicated for the first-line…

Genzyme Clinical Trial for Relapsing-Remitting MS Enrolls 1st Patient

Sanofi subsidiary and rare disease treatment specialist Genzyme has just announced the successful enrollment of the first participant in their multicenter Phase II clinical trial for the company’s pipeline intravenous drug for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), vatelizumab. This novel drug is composed of humanized monoclonal antibodies that specifically target…