New drug offers new hope for MS patients in Canada
Published Thursday, April 17, 2014 3:11PM ADT
Last Updated Thursday, April 17, 2014 7:27PM ADT
Roughly 100,000 Canadians are living with multiple sclerosis and many manage the disease with a strict medication regime.
Dorothyann Brown was diagnosed with the disease five years ago; she says it affects almost every aspect of her life.
“For me, it’s fatigue that wipes me out. The pain wipes me out,” says Brown. “I have mild cognitive impairment that makes it really hard for me to even do…I write and I find it very difficult do that.”
Brown tries to manager her illness as best she can through diet and exercise, but she also relies heavily on medications.
“I take things like Copaxone, which is a disease-modifying drug. I take anti-spasmodics to stop the spasms in my legs,” says Brown.
“I did have a licence for medical marijuana to stop the spasms, so there’s a bunch of things you can take to deal with your symptoms, but there really hasn’t been anything that stops the disease in its tracks.”
Now, a new drug recently approved by Health Canada is giving new hope to Maritimers living with multiple sclerosis.
Dena Simon, president of the Atlantic division of the MS Society of Canada, says what sets Lemtrada apart from other treatments is its unique dosing schedule.
“So, you have five treatments over the course of five days, then you wait 12 months and you have three more treatments,” explains Simon. “Then you’re not supposed to have any more treatments for the balance of your life.”
Lemtrada is administered to patients intravenously in hospital. Not everyone living with MS is a candidate for the treatment – only those with the relapsing, remitting form of the disease.
Like any powerful drug, it can have serious side effects.
“With Lemtrada, we know that there can be kidney dysfunction, problems with platelets, problems with thyroid, and someone can have a very poor reaction to it as well,” says Simon.
Despite the possible side effects, Brown is eager to try the new treatment.
Unlike her current medications, which are covered by the province of Nova Scotia, Lemtrada comes with an estimated cost to the patient in the tens of thousands of dollars. Brown says she hopes to see that change in the near future.
“You just have to have the two treatments so it might end up costing less over the long term, so I’m hoping the government will look at covering it because as an investment, that’s a good investment if it works,” says Brown.
The MS Society of Canada says it’s pleased anytime a new therapy is introduced.
“We always celebrate when we have a new treatment option because it gives people more flexibility and more control over their lives,” says Simon.