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Friday

 

New MS treatment could be too pricey



























A multiple sclerosis patient is seen with her new leg brace. (FILE PHOTO, POSTMEDIA)

A new multiple sclerosis treatment capable of halting the disease’s advancement for 10 years is being reviewed by government to determine if it’ll receive B.C. PharmaCare coverage.

Lemtrada from manufacturer Genzyme Canada Inc. is taken intravenously over eight days — treatment involves five consecutive days of infusion, followed by 12 months’ break, then another three daily infusions are delivered.

Dr. Tony Traboulsee, a University of B.C. Hospital Multiple Sclerosis Clinic researcher, conducted clinical trials five years ago on 40 patients in the province and found the treatment far more successful than traditional medications.

One traditional, effective method was a bone marrow transplant, which Traboulsee compared to replacing the immune system for one without autoimmunity.

“This one (Lemtrada) knocks down the immune system and as it comes back it comes back less aggressive ... it’s like a bone marrow transplant without the bone marrow transplant,” Traboulsee said Thursday.

“I think of it as resetting the immune system. It’s pretty cool — it’s almost unheard of in this field.”

About 80% of patients who have taken the treatment stopped developing new MS symptoms, he said. And 30% of those successful patients have had some MS symptoms, such as loss of balance or bladder control, disappear altogether.

But without subsidy or insurance coverage, the treatment currently costs about $90,000 per patient for two years — that’s more than twice as expensive as the next priciest covered drug for MS.

The drug is also more effective for those in the first 10 years of being diagnosed with MS, Traboulsee said.

Assessment of the drug for PharmaCare has just passed public input and is now being reviewed by the Drug Benefit Council, which will make recommendations on its effectiveness, whether it’s good value and other factors before making a recommendation to the Ministry of Health, a ministry spokesman said.

It’s unclear whether the drug would have to be taken again after 10 years — that stage of clinical trials has yet to take place locally.

May is MS Awareness Month — a walk to support research goes Sunday, 10 a.m., starting at the Plaza of Nations in Vancouver.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by 24HOURSVANCOUVER
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length
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