Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a devastating, chronic autoimmune disease that affects more than 400,000 Americans and 2.3 million people worldwide.
MS affects a person’s brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, causing problems with vision, balance, muscle control and other basic body functions. The severity of the disease varies patient to patient. Some patients suffer only mild symptoms, but others have trouble doing basic, daily tasks.
An MS attack or relapse can exacerbate existing symptoms or cause new ones. Relapses are followed by a partial or full remission with no apparent disease progression. Approximately 10 percent of MS patients experience a steady, progressive form of the disease for which there are no available treatments.
A decade ago, treatments often resulted in painful site reactions on the patient’s skin, and in some patients, it produced flu-like side effects including fever, chills, malaise, muscle aches and fatigue. These treatments were often invasive and logistically complex to administer. And with just a handful of available treatments, patients were left with few alternatives if these options failed.
Thankfully, significant progress has been made for MS patients. Advances in treatment over the last decade have produced an arsenal of new medicines to slow disease progression, prevent relapses and more effectively manage symptoms with fewer side effects. For patients, continuous treatment is crucial. Successful management of the disease requires treatment options that support patient adherence and a broad range of therapeutic alternatives for patients who cannot tolerate a particular treatment.
In addition to providing new treatments, finding ways to keep medicines affordable is important. Regulatory solutions to help customers better predict costs could help. Other changes supported by the biopharmaceutical industry would clear the way for innovative payment arrangements.
Today, there are 32 medicines in development to treat MS.