A new drug that treats both the severe and the more common forms of multiple sclerosis in adult patients was approved by the FDA on Tuesday. Reuters and the AP report that after a three-month delay due to manufacturing concerns, Ocrevus will become accessible in the United States in two weeks. It is the first treatment approved for primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), a severe form of the chronic autoimmune disease of the central nervous system where symptoms steadily worsen, usually without remission, eventually causing loss of cognitive ability and paralysis. In one of the two clinical trials testing the drug, patients with PPMS saw a 24% decrease in the risk of symptoms progressing compared to those receiving a placebo, reports the New York Times.
Jerrie Gullick, a patient in the PPMS clinical trial, says that while she hasn’t been cured, she is relieved to see the decline slowing. “I was figuring another five years, and I was going to be bed-bound, and one day I realized I might have 20 or 30 more years of this,” says Gullick. “It’s like I was on a bullet train, and I was transferred to a local.” According to the FDA, Ocrevus is an intravenous infusion that must be administered by healthcare professionals. The cost of treatment is listed at $65,000 per year, which, while expensive, is a 25% decrease from a rival treatment currently being used in the United States. As for patients with the more common relapsing form of MS, Ocrevus is seen as safer than many of the existing treatments, with fewer serious side effects.