Groundbreaking New Multiple Sclerosis Treatment Approved

Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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History has been made in the world of multiple sclerosis treatments! On March 28th, the FDA approved Ocrevus (ocrelizumab), a new prescription medication to treat adult patients with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) and primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS). Ocrevus is the first drug that treats both forms of MS, and is causing excitement in the multiple sclerosis community.

What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, inflammatory, autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the communication between the brain and other parts of the body. This can cause numbness or weakness in the limbs, partial or complete loss of vision, tremor, and slurred speech. Most people with MS will experience alternating periods of acute attacks followed by periods of remission.

However, there is a rare form called primary progressive multiple sclerosis, that affects around 10% of people with MS. People with PPMS do not experience the acute attacks, and instead experience a steady deterioration of neurological function. Because of this steady decline, people with PPMS may require more assistance with everyday activities like walking or eating. Ocrevus is the first FDA approved medication to treat this and slow the progression of PPRS.

How is Ocrevus administered?

Ocrevus is available in a 30 mg/ml single dose vial to be administered as an intravenous infusion. It is considered a healthcare practitioner (HCP) administered drug, which means that you must be under the close supervision of an experienced professional during your infusion. You can read more about HCP administered drugs here.

Ocrevus is administered every six months. The first treatment is administered in two week sessions, two weeks apart. During these two sessions patients will receive 300 mg of intravenous solution.

Patients will also receive a single 600 mg intravenous infusion every six months and will be observed for at least one hour after the completion of each infusion.

What are the common side effects associated with Ocrevus?

Common side effects include upper respiratory tract infection, lower respiratory tract infection, fatigue, and nausea.  Additionally, some patients experience side effects related to the infusion, like skin itching and reddening.

How can I afford Ocrevus?

Unfortunately, this groundbreaking treatment is not cheap. The list price for one year of treatment is $65,000. However, patients have some options to save.

Genentech Pharmaceuticals has a program, called Ocrevus Access Solutions, that is designed to help patients afford Ocrevus in a couple of ways. For insured patients, Ocrevus Access Solutions can check on co-pay costs and suggest helpful co-pay assistance programs. For uninsured patients, the program has options to cover the cost of treatments.

For more information about Ocrevus, visit the website here.

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