COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug to treat people living with Multiple Sclerosis, a chronic auto-immune disorder that causes a patient`s own system to attack his or her brain and spinal cord.
It's helping people like Pamela Arterbridge who for the past 25 years has been building her salon business one customer at a time.
"I have a dedicated clientele and I never wanted to let them down."
But four years ago, she began feeling exhausted and then some symptoms she couldn't ignore.
"I woke up one morning and all of my toes were numb and tingling and it felt like I had rocks in my shoes."
Pamela had Multiple Sclerosis.
"I have a lesion on my spine, and I have three on my brain."
Neurologist Michael Racke is an expert in M-S at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center. He is one of a nationwide team of researchers studying the effects of ocrelizumab.
"Almost half the patients had no evidence of disease activity in terms of their M-S," said Dr. Racke. "That's much higher than we've seen with any other M-S treatment."
Ocrelizumab is also the first drug ever available for the primary, progressive form of the disease, affecting about 15% of M-S patients. The drug is given as an infusion.
"Patients receive it every six months, certainly a little bit more convenient than a monthly infusion or injection," explained Dr. Racke.
Pamela Arterbridge was on the drug for about a year as part of the clinical trial. She says it's made all the difference.
"I haven't had the brain fog. I haven't had any slurred speech. I'm confident that I'll still be able to stand and do what I love to do."
Symptoms vary greatly between individuals, but may include numbness or weakness in limbs, double vision or loss of vision, tinging or pain in parts of the body, tremors, slurred speech, fatigue, dizziness, or problems with bladder and bowel function. The exact cause of MS is unknown, but risk factors include sex (women are more likely to develop it than men), family history, certain infections, race, climate, smoking, and certain autoimmune disorders.
Ocrelizumab is considered a first-in-class treatment, specifically targeting the B-cells or immune cells that play a large part in the disease.
HOW IT WORKS: Ocrelizumab selectively targets CD20-positive B cells, a type of immune cell. B cells are thought to be a key contributor to myelin (nerve cell insulation) and nerve cell damage, which can result in disability for patients with MS. It is considered new because it is the first B cell targeting therapy that has had an impact on both relapsing and primary progressive MS and it is important because it is the first and only therapy that has an impact in primary progressive MS.
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