A drug shown to help patients with a particular type of multiple sclerosis is available through an ongoing clinical trial at Holy Name Medical Center, the only site in northern New Jersey where eligible patients can obtain Ocrevus. The medicine made the news recently when it was touted as the first drug to consistently help reduce the decline in patients who have primary progressive MS, the type characterized by a consistent gradual loss of function without a relapse.
Holy Name's MS Center has been participating in a clinical trial with Ocrevus for about four years, part of a nationwide study that has shown the drug reduced disease progression by about 24 percent in patients with this type of MS. A sister trial in patients with relapsing forms of MS also produced strong results – reducing the annualized relapse rate by nearly 50 percent over two years.
"Our MS Center is second to none and our participation in clinical trials gives our patients access to medications and therapies long before they are available to the general public," said Michael Maron, President and CEO of Holy Name. "We will continue to stay at the forefront of MS research in order to provide our patients with the most advanced diagnostics and treatments."
Currently, more than 400,000 people in the U.S. are living with MS, an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information between the brain and the body. The disease causes the immune system to attack myelin, the fatty substance that protects nerve fibers, which then forms scar tissue. This damage distorts the nerve impulses and causes a number of symptoms.
Ocrevus is expected to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration in early spring. Until then, it is only available through clinical trials, such as the one currently being conducted at Holy Name. Patients with MS, ages 18 through 55, may be eligible to participate in the study if they meet certain criteria, such as still retain the ability to walk.
"This medication has the potential to help many patients and the trial data shows some excellent results," said Dr. Mary Ann Picone, Medical Director of the MS Center. "The goal is to slow the progression of the disease and 25 percent can mean a lot to people with this type of MS."