Most of the latest Multiple Sclerosis treatments cater to relapsing and remitting MS patients. Until Roche’s blockbuster drug Ocrevus launched for progressive MS, patients with progressive and advanced multiple sclerosis had not benefitted as much from therapeutic innovations in the MS space. Renowned neurologist, Robert Fox indicates that he always is very transparent with newly diagnosed patients about limitations with PPMS drug development. The CRO of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Timothy Coetzee, stated that the organization’s primary funding efforts will focus on research that will potentially eradicate this problem. It will help healthcare professionals gain a better understanding of the progression of this insidious disease.
A fundamental underlying cause of multiple sclerosis is a hyperactive immune system. It destroys the body’s own tissues, particularly the myelin sheath. Current therapies pay sole focus to the inflammation caused in the myelin sheath, which is the leading cause behind the relapses. Along with the swelling, there is also a steady deterioration of axons. The myelin protects the axons, which is why this neurodegeneration is permanently damaging. Some studies have even suggested that Progressive MS treatments fail because they do not target the right problem.
One of the biggest obstacles in developing Progressive multiple sclerosis treatments is that conducting and designing clinical trials for it is extremely tough. In addition, a standard MRI is not capable of capturing neurodegenerative pathology. While there has been some progress with progressive MRI forms, it has been quite limited.
Experts claim that patients can still try to work their way towards recovery despite the lack of options available to cure it. Often patients lose hope and focus on living an active life to the best of their abilities. Patients with progressive MS are often plagued with debilitating symptoms especially African American women who experience more aggressive symptoms and mobility issues. Some of the symptoms patients are faced with include cognitive impairments, sexual dysfunction, bladder dysfunction, depression, fatigue, leg cramps, etc.
So far, the treatments available for Primary Progressive multiple sclerosis are far and few. Ocrevus happens to be the only FDA approved drug to treat primary progressive multiple sclerosis so far (it is also used for relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis). In the meantime, symptom management, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and rehab can help sustain and sometimes improve the quality of life for PPMS patients while they wait continued advancements in research and treatment.