Tag: <span>ms medication</span>

If you’ve ever wondered how new Multiple Sclerosis drugs are developed, evaluated, and finally approved for the market, Bloomberg.com offers a link to the video of the FDA Committee Meeting on Novartis’s new Gilenia, the first pill for Multiple Sclerosis.

After drug testing and before the FDA approves a new medication, a panel of health experts considers the drug studies and, if the panel is satisfied, recommends approval to the FDA for approval. The FDA usually does as the panel suggests.

The panel reviewing Gilenia recommends it as safe and effective for controlling tremors, concentration problems and other symptoms of relapsing remitting MS.

If the medication’s side effects do not derail the FDA’s approval later this year, Gilenia will be a welcomed medication for MS patients because it is the first MS treatment available in pill form. Approval would mean no more routine injections or infusions for those who take it — no more needles or injection site reactions.

Reported side effects of Gilenia include eye disorders, heart problems and lung problems. In spite of these, the panel recommend approval of the drug for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis.

With each medication they choose to take, MS patients are faced with the persistent question, “Will my MS treatment be worse for me than the long term effects of the disease?” Because this is a new medication, there really isn’t an answer to this question yet. Not enough people have taken it for enough time for researchers to know the long term effects.

In light of the side effects, the panel did recommend Novartis study the effectiveness of lower doses of Gilenia.

More information about Gilenia:

MS Medications MS Research MS Treatment Reasons for Hope

Ampyra [am-PEER-ah], the brand name for a new drug named fampridine-SR, has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. The new drug is the first Multiple Sclerosis drug to enhance some neurological functioning for MS patients.

Dr. Andrew Goodman, chief of the University of Rochester Medical Center’s (URMC) Multiple Sclerosis Center, and his colleague Steven Schwid, M.D. who died in 2008, have studied the newly approved drug for more than 10 years.

Because most MS treatments are studied in terms of the way they slow the disease progression or prevent relapses, this medication required a new way of thinking about evaluating a Multiple Sclerosis medication. Because fampridine-SR restores some function, the study protocols developed at URMC were designed to measure functional outcomes. One study protocol measured the walking speed improvements over 25 feet.

According to the news release on the URMC web site, a significant number of study participants with Multiple Sclerosis increased walking speed by 25%, reported they could walk farther, climb stairs better and stand longer.

In short, this seems like a promising new drug! Acorda Therapeutics, Inc., the manufacturer of Ampyra, has developed a website to provide additional information to patients and physicians.

As with all MS drugs and therapies, there are significant potential side effects. The Ampyra Medication Guide offers these safety precautions:

  • “Your chance of having a seizure is higher if you take too much AMPYRA or if you have kidney problems.
  • Do not take AMPYRA if you have ever had a seizure.
  • Before taking AMPYRA tell your doctor if you have kidney problems.
  • Take AMPYRA exactly as prescribed by your doctor.”

Important Links

Ampyra Web Site
URMC News Release

MS Medications

You may think your pharmaceutical expenses and drug costs are high. They are.

Part of the reason is that drugs are made by corporations that must return value to shareholders. To do this, they must sell drugs. To sell drugs, pharmaceutical companies have paid doctors to promote their drugs. The money paid to doctors is an expense which increases the cost of drugs. That’s the business.

One step beyond the business, though, is corruption. At least one drug company has pleaded guilty for paying doctors to recommend drugs for diseases for which the drug was not approved. And there are new allegations the drug company may have known the drug was not even effective against the diseases for which it was being promoted.

That’s all background.

Pfizer Inc., the world’s biggest drugmaker and the company that created Neurontin, has said it will begin (next year) disclosing all payments of more than $500 it makes to doctors.

According to the MSNBC article, “Pfizer to disclose payments to doctors next year“, Pfizer is doing this “after introduction last month of legislation to require such disclosures, and revelations of astronomical payments to some doctors that were not revealed to universities and hospitals that employed them.” In other words, this is an example of another corporate entity becoming interested in transparency only after regulatory requirements change.

While politicians suggest this is a good move because there is so much public money that passes to drug companies, I believe the real value in this is that it makes transparent the relationship between a doctor and the medications the doctor prescribes.

Here’s what I like about it: suppose a doctor makes a presentation to an MS support group and talks extensively about one of the MS injection therapies and only mentions the others in passing.

Don’t you want to know whether the doctor is focusing on the one medication because he or she finds it really is the best medication and not because he or she is being paid to give a speech? As I wrote in September of 2007 in “MS Medication, Insurance Coverage and 2 Ounces of Gold“, I sure want to know!

Here’s why Pfizer’s decision to report these payments to doctors is important. Pfizer pleaded guilty in a legal settlement related to an accusation it had illegally paid doctors to prescribe Neurontin for uses not approved by the FDA. Pfizer paid penalties of $430 million for paying doctors to prescribe billions of dollars of Neurontin to patients with diseases for which there was no evidence of Neurontin’s effectiveness.

Newsweek has a good article that summarizes the Pfizer/Neurontin legal issues: “Pfizer’s Headache: Lawsuit charges drugmaker was deceptive about Neurontin.”

Pfizer’s behavior offers the clearest example of why transparency in the doctor/pharmaceutical company relationship is important.

Interesting to me is that while Pfizer paid $430 million (about one quarter’s sales of Neurontin), no physician was charged. I think this must be why: Doctors have to be able to trust the information they receive from pharmaceutical companies. Certainly, no physician with integrity would prescribe or promote a drug they did not believe to be effective.

Caregiver Tip: The quickest way to get to the point of this issue with a doctor about a prescription medication is to ask, “Do you receive money from the drug company that makes this medication?” Once that is on the table, you can then talk about whether or not the medication is being prescribed because your doctor really does believe it will be effective.

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