Oral MS Drug on Horizon
That's good news for the 400,000 or so people (including me) in the U.S. who have MS, as treatment options are limited to five injectable drugs plus one delivered via monthly IV infusion. Merck's drug cladribine (which, in injectable form, already is used to treat a kind of leukemia) is to be taken orally, and in a two-year Phase III clinical trial it reduced relapses (sporadic recurrence of disease symptoms) by nearly 60 percent more than did a placebo.
A note of caution: among the 1,326 trial participants, four developed cancer, all in different organs. Some analysts say that number's not statistically significant; others say it raises a red flag and warrants close attention in future trials. Still, the drug has been fast-tracked for FDA approval, which is expected to come mid-year.
It's anticipated that the availability of the first oral MS drug will have MS patients across the country flinging aside their syringes in favor of popping a pill, simply for comfort and convenience.
Plus, many people with MS are ill-served by existing treatments: Some people have to try medication after medication to find one that keeps their disease in check, and some never find a suitable option. So the promise of a new drug to try is great.
But what about those of us who (knock on wood) appear to be doing well with the meds we currently take? Should we be quick to abandon our injectables (which can indeed be a pain in the butt) in favor of something less invasive, more convenient -- and perhaps more effective? Ideally most of us will include our physicians as we grapple with that question.
So, people with MS, what's your gut reaction? Are you good and ready to switch to an oral medication? Or are you inclined to stick with the tried and true needle jab, even if it hurts and gives you bruises?
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