Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a severe disease that hits the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. In multiple sclerosis, the immune system falsely incapacitates the myelin sheath shielding the nerve fibres, leading to impaired nerve signals between the brain and the rest of the body. Ultimately, the nerves can incur permanent damage, worsening the symptoms of MS.
Multiple sclerosis symptoms vary patient to patient as the condition damages different nerves and causes varying levels of damage. Some patients can undergo long remission periods without showing any new signs, while some patients face serious disabilities due to permanent nerve damage.
Although multiple sclerosis is incurable, there are therapies that speed up the recovery time of relapses, ease symptoms, and impede the worsening of the disease.
Multiple Sclerosis Treatment Options
The goal of most MS treatments is accelerating the healing from relapses, decelerating the progression of the condition, and mitigating symptoms to improve quality of life. There are, however, patients that experience symptoms mild enough that they do not need medical intervention.
Two standard treatment options for the management of MS attacks involve taking corticosteroids, such as prednisone, and plasma exchange. Additionally, there are also FDA-sanctioned disease-modifying agents for the treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. An aggressive therapy protocol with disease-modifying drugs can quickly lessen the rate of relapses and repress the development of more lesions.
A majority of disease-modifying drugs approved for the treatment of MS can potentially bring on more complications. Choosing the right therapy is possible through careful consideration of a host of factors, from the severity of relapses to other conditions a patient may have.
The main medications prescribed for the treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis are beta interferons, ocrelizumab, glatiramer acetate, and fingolimod.
Very recently, the FDA granted the medication ocrelizumab its approval for its use for both primary-progressive and relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. This new MS drug that is taken intravenously at 6-month intervals became the first FDA-approved drug to treat primary-progressive multiple sclerosis.
Classified as a monoclonal antibody, this medication directly targets a protein identified as CD20, which is found on the exterior of B-cells. B-cells or B lymphocytes play a role in inflicting damage to the brain and spinal cord in those with multiple sclerosis. These B-cells eventually turn into plasma cells, leading to the production of antibodies. Even though antibodies are part of the process that causes damage to the protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres, ocrelizumab specifically disables the action of B-cells to prevent them from creating antibodies.
In short, ocrelizumab specifically targets and eliminates the cells that play a role in the progression of multiple sclerosis while safeguarding healthy cells from harm. Based on clinical trials, patients who were placed on ocrelizumab saw a drastic reduction in the progression of their disease and incidence of disabilities. Compared to interferon, patients who took ocrelizumab also saw up to 47% decrease in their relapse frequency.
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