Researchers have found a new treatment option for multiple sclerosis patients. The new drug is actually a leukemia treatment, called alemtuzumab. In those with multiple sclerosis, their own immune system attacks the body’s nerves. The drug attacks the immune system and causes it to reset.
Giving alemtuzumab to MS patients causes the drug to completely eliminate all white blood cells. This forces the body to generate an entirely new immune system. It is not a cure, but it is being called the most effecitve MS drug on the market.
The new drug will only be effective with patients with relapsing-remitting MS, and not progressive MS. The side effects are also serious with alemtuzumab. Patients could develop other immune disorders as a result.
This breakthrough treatment option was discovered in two clinical trials. Participants with relapsing-remitting MS were given either alemtuzumab or the first choice MS drug, interferon beta-1a. The first trial looked at the effectiveness of the drug as the first option after initial diagnoses. The second trial looked at the effectiveness of the drug in MS patients who were given it only after other treatment had failed.
The results found that alemtuzumab was 50% more effective in both studies. The potential use would be for MS patients who have exhausted other treatment options.
The drug manufacturer, Genzyme, had withdrawn it from the market in Europe and the United States. They intend to license it as a treatment for multiple sclerosis.
The concern now is that with the MS license, the drug will increase in price beyond the availability of the average person. Medical professionals are urging Genzyme to price the drug reasonably so that many people will be able to benefit from it.
Genzyme has said that they will not consider any prices for the drug until it has been approved for the license.