New drug approved to treat multiple sclerosis a game changer

FOX 32 NEWS - It’s being called a game changer: a newly approved drug to treat multiple sclerosis. 

Rush University Medical Center is the first hospital in Illinois to offer the treatment, and it could provide hope for patients suffering from the devastating disease.

It’s a new therapy for multiple sclerosis called ‘Ocrevus’ and it was just approved two months ago by the FDA. Testing has showed some pretty impressive results.

"Once the person started on Ocrevus, then they have a 90-plus percent less in new lesions, meaning the diseases are pretty much brought to a halt."

This is exciting news for doctors and patients. This new drug not only treats the most common form of MS, called Relapsing MS, but is the first and only therapy for Primary Progressive MS, which doctors haven't been able to treat properly before. It works by slowing the disease's progression and reducing the effects of some symptoms.

MS attacks the body's central nervous system, disrupting the flow of information from the brain through the spine and breaking down neurological functions. The results can be devastating. Symptoms can include extreme fatigue, slurred speech, tremors, muscle weakness and vision problems. There is no cure and sometimes the damaging effects cannot be reversed.

Kathleen Schrobilgen is undergoing her first in a series of two treatments with the drug Ocrevus. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007, she needed a new option when her current medication would no longer work.

"I don't want to go back to that place where everything was going wrong,” she said.

Ocrevus is being called a game changer because of how it works. Instead of targeting t-cells in our body, like previous MS medications, Ocrevus targets b-cells. Neurologist’s say b-cells can sometimes make antibodies that attack our own body and can make t-cells more aggressive in MS.

So what does this all mean for MS patients?

"It means for them, they may not have to think about the disease coming back time after time in a way of attacks and progression of disabilities, and they can focus on living a better, healthier more active lifestyle."

For patients like Kathleen, it's also convenient. Ocrevus is given to patients through an infusion twice a year. She’s hopeful this new treatment will stop MS in its tracks.

"I don't have to worry about losing abilities,” she said.

Doctors say the side effects are minimal. The drug’s manufacturer, Roche, is investigating complaints of a patient developing a rare brain infection after receiving one treatment with this drug. But the company believes that infection is a result of previous MS treatments he had received that did not include Ocrevus.

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