New Drug Helping Patients Diagnosed With Multiple Sclerosis

There are 400,000 to 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. For some, the traditional arsenal of drugs isn't working. That's why a drug, approved in December 2014 is being welcomed. It's called Lemtrada.

For 31 years, Jonathan Morris ran a dairy farm in Rensselaer County. However, in 2006 this father of seven was forced to sell that herd and switch to the less labor intensive business of raising beef cows.

“It was on Sunday, the bottom of my foot was numb and then it moved up to my knee,” he recalled.

Before the week was out, he'd be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and starting the journey to find a medication to slow the disease progression. None of the approved drugs worked for long. That's how he became one of the first people to be treated with Lemtrada -- approved in December 2014.

This is the fourth of 5 day long infusions of the drug. It works by targeting specific cells involved in triggering multiple sclerosis.

“But this knocks out the inflammatory cells that attack the myelin,” explained neurologist, Dr. Keith Edwards of Empire Neurology. Myelin is the protective sheath covering our nerves.

In multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks the myelin, disrupting communication between your brain and the rest of your body -- so multiple sclerosis can affect you physically and cognitively.

Lemtrada is long acting. After Morris's five days of treatment, he won't be treated again for a year when he'll undergo three days of infusions.

Based on studies of Lemtrada -- which Dr. Edwards took part in, he expects Morris will see results.

“About 90 perecent response rate with Lemtrada meaning stopping relapses and stopping progression of disease,” he explains.

Dr. Edwards says the drug is aimed at the 10-30 percent of multiple sclerosis patients who, like Morris, don't respond well to other medications because there are potential side effects - changes in thyroid function and platelet levels.

Morris will be monitored, monthly over the year.

“Is this a cure?” I ask. “It might be. It might be for some people,” says Dr. Edwards.

Clearly Morris is hoping he's one of them. “Let's hope it works, yeah.”

You can find more information on Lemtrada and multiple sclerosis at these links.

Reposted from WNYT

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