In October 2010 I first learned that Gilenya had been approved by the FDA. The first oral treatment for Multiple Sclerosis! So exciting – but I didn’t dare to really believe that I would be switched to it. I knew that insurance would never cover it as long as I was able to use interferon instead, and I had been using Rebif for awhile.
Tysabri is a dream come true for many individuals with Multiple Sclerosis. Personally, I have opted to take Gilenya (for now), but Tysabri was very tempting when I considered my options after it became apparent that Rebif would not work out for me any longer. However, along with Tysabri’s side effects comes one very sinister danger: PML. One patient on Gilenya has been diagnosed with PML, and it can happen to anyone whether or not they have MS. Knowing that medication (especially newer medications) may bring a risk of PML has frightened us all.
“They” say that you are considered newly diagnosed for the first 2 1/2 to 3 years after your Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. It seems like only yesterday that I posted my “Year One” article. It seems like only yesterday that I was diagnosed! Somehow, enough time has passed that I find myself at a point where I have been living with Multiple Sclerosis for four years.
Multiple Sclerosis has certainly complicated my life in many ways. The varieties of stress that come along with modern life are compounded exponentially with this disease. I have new doctors now, excess weight, less energy, disability, handicap parking tags, canes, fans to cool me down, bottles upon bottles of medications, a CPAP machine, bills and statements from hospitals, and, last but not least, worries. A lot of worries. At times I have felt supremely overwhelmed with stuff, with concerns, with financial problems, with health problems, with responsibilities (dinner, dishes, laundry, shopping, cleaning, preparing for work). How do you simplify your life?
Why is it unusual for us to talk about Multiple Sclerosis and weight? They both affect us so much and they do affect each other. But we often avoid acknowledging them together. Multiple Sclerosis itself isn’t the only part of having MS that affects our weight – all those drugs that we take for this that and the other play a large part in and of themselves. Between fast food, soda, genetically modified fruits and vegetables, and meat that has been filled with hormones and antibiotics, it’s a wonder we live long enough to even take the medications which alter our bodies on top of everything else. Not surprising that so many of us believe that diet and exercise play a large part in our disease course.
Last week Sanofi SA’s oral drug for Multiple Sclerosis, Aubagio (also known as Teriflunomide and A77 1726), was approved by the FDA. Somehow this one snuck under my radar and here we are with it scheduled to be prescribed by October 1st!
First, the bad news: studies show that it’s no more effective than Rebif (and maybe less effective). With Gilenya already on the market and BG-12 looming, I doubt that this drug will make a huge impact. It is related to an existing arthritis drug, leflunomide.
The good news is that it does work compared with placebo and is generally safe and well-tolerated. Because it acts differently than interferons, it may also make patients less susceptible to infections. The more choices we have for treatment, the better.
Have you heard of Acthar Gel, a new treatment for Multiple Sclerosis relapses? Surprise – this drug has been around for decades, originally approved in 1952. Acthar was essentially abandoned in the 1980’s when bested by methylprednisolone.