The FDA recently approved the first treatment for the most severe form of Multiple Sclerosis.
It’s been almost 24 years since the approval of the first drug to delay the progression of MS. Until then, patients could only be treated for symptoms while the disease continued to attack the central nervous system, the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.
Some doctors are calling this new treatment another game-changer.
Mike Miller was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis almost ten years ago.
It started with changes in his vision.
“It took a few years and i went number from the waist down,” he says.
He’s now one of the first patients in the country to receive the new drug called Ocrevus. It’s the first one ever approved for primary progressive MS.
Dr Aaron Boster says the treatment targets an immune cell involved in the disease.
“What it ends up doing is massively decreasing how often people have ms attacks, massively decreasing the new spots that form on the brain, and slowing down the progression of their disease and that last point is something we have never been able to do,” the neuroimmunologist explains.
Dr Boster says Ocrevus also treats relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, the most common form , and the type Beth McCalpin struggles with.
She says, “I can start out feeling very well and the fatigue can hit me. And then I struggle a lot with that. I get a lot of nerve pain, muscle spasms. I can have good days and bad days.”
It took at least two years of doctor visits, tests, and scans, before the Duncansville woman was diagnosed.
Since then, the drug Copaxone has prevented new lesions from forming on her brain and spinal cord.
Beth is grateful for treatments that slow the disease, but emphasizes that they don’t cure it, and don’t relieve symptoms. Since her diagnosis, she’s fielded a team in the Blair County MS Walk to raise money for a cure, to raise awareness, and to increase understanding.
Beth says, “MS can be an invisible disease, so you can look at somebody and think oh, they’re fine or why are they sitting down, why are they parking in the handicapped spot . you don’t know what someone’s going through unless you’re physically feeling that. I think being aware and educated makes a huge difference,” she adds.
Beth is excited to be part of the effort to fight MS and she remains hopeful that the advances will continue. The Blair County Walk MS that Beth’s taking part in is coming up Sunday April 23 and so is the one in Clearfield.
MS Walks will step out on April 30 in Bedford and Centre Counties and Cambria County’s walk will take place on May 7.
For more information about the MS Society, call the Duncansville office at 814-696-1017 or visit the web site at MSPAKeystone.org.