Treatment for Relapsing MS is on the move!
Just this past March, a third oral disease modifying agent for MS was approved. Tecfidera (Dimethyl fumarate) now joins Aubagio (teriflunomide), which was approved in 2012, and Gilenya (fingolimod), which was approved in 2010. While the exact mechanism of action of Tecfidera is unknown, researchers believe it inhibits immune cells that are active in MS and may also have anti-oxidant properties that could protect the brain and the spinal cord. This is important since in MS, immune cells are attacking the nerves that reside in those areas.
While this is good news, it is also important to remember that with benefits can come risks. In the clinical studies that were performed that showed the advantage of the medication, they also showed that Tecfidera reduced blood lymphocyte (white blood cell) counts and that liver enzyme tests were elevated. Fortunately, no severe infections or significant liver injury or liver failure were reported.
The most common side effects in the clinical trials were flushing and gastrointestinal events (such as diarrhea, nausea, and upper abdominal pain). The incidence of these events during clinical trials was highest in the first month of treatment and appeared to decrease thereafter.
Hopefully, this new medication will be able to help those with relapsing MS. Although Tecfidera was not tested with people who have progressive disease, other clinical studies are currently underway that are targeting those with progressive MS. This is important to note since this population has very limited medication available to them. I am encouraged that this will change soon.
Rachael Stacom is ICS’s Senior Vice President, Care Management. Rachael created the ICS Multiple Sclerosis Program in 2007, which has been recognized by the National MS Society as a “Center of Excellence in Long-Term Care.” She says, “I was drawn to ICS after seeing the health inequalities that existed for those who were physically disabled. After ten years, I have seen how successful ICS is at addressing those inequities for people with disabilities and for senior adults, and I am so grateful to be a part of the work ICS does.”