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New MS drug approved by FDA: Who should take it and what is the cost?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
New MS drug successful for halting agressive forms of the disease; approved by FDA

The FDA has a approved a new drug to treat a rare and aggressive form of multiple sclerosis. Who should take the drug and what is the cost?


The medication, Ocrevus, that is given via infusion helped prevent the progression of primary progressive MS (PPMS) by twenty-four percent, compared to placebo.

Relapse rates dropped 46 percent, compared to the drug interferon beta-1a (Rebif). The new MS drug approval is important, given 15 percent of MS patients have a progressive, relapsing form of the disease.

Other findings from clinical trials showed 48 percent of patients had no new brain lesions and no worsening symptoms.

Clyde E. Markowitz, MD, director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at the University of Pennsylvania, says the medication approval fills a gap for patients in need of better treatment.

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How does it work, what you should know

  • Ocrevus is a monoclonal antibody that works by targeting immune cells that destroy myelin sheath and nerve damage associated with MS.
  • In trials, patients received an infusion of 600 mg every six months.
  • Ocrevus is contraindicated for people with Hepatitis B and C, HIV and tuberculosis or syphyllis because of lower immune function.
  • There is a heightened risk of breast cancer associated with the new MS drug.