The disease – also known as MS – is a neurological condition which affects the body’s central nervous system. It affects twice as many women as men, causes loss of mobility, sight problems, tiredness and excruciating pain. Once diagnosed, it stays with a person for life and can get worse over time, but a new drug could offer hope to the 2.3 million people worldwide who have to live with the condition.
The medication is the first of its kind that can treat a type of MS called primary progressive MS, and for another 85,000 MS patients, it offers a more effective alternative to existing drugs.
Ocrelizumab is the first ever drug to be shown to effectively treat the 10 per cent of MS patients who have primary progressive MS. The “game changer”, as scientists are calling it, can also help the 85 per cent of sufferers who have another form of the condition called relapsing MS. In those cases, ocrelizumab has been found to be 50 per cent more effective than current medication.
The drug was tested in a clinical trial at hospitals around the UK.
Multiple sclerosis is caused when the body’s immune system malfunctions. Instead of warding off diseases, immune cells called B-cells attack the body’s myelin, the protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres. The ocrelizumab treatment slows down this process by stopping the B-cells from attacking the myelin.
“These data demonstrate that B-cell targeting can significantly modify the disease, which in effect means a more positive outlook for patients,” said Professor Gavin Giovannoni of Barts Hospital in London.
The drug is taken as an intravenous drip every six months, and drugs company Roche plans to submit a licensing application to the European Medicines Agency early next year. If it's approved, it could be available to patients as soon as 2017.
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