(BPT) - Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic and unpredictable disease of the central nervous system (CNS) and is thought to be an immune-mediated disorder, in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue in the CNS.
Erika, who works in Government and Public Affairs, was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS (RMS) six years ago. All forms of MS, including RMS, can be difficult to diagnose since, when assessed individually, there are no specific symptoms, physical findings or laboratory tests that determine if a person has MS. Making it even more difficult to diagnose, MS has heterogeneous clinical and imaging manifestations, which not only differ between patients, but also vary in individual patients over time. In Erika’s case, her RMS was identified quickly after initial symptoms appeared and was later confirmed through a diagnosis of optic neuritis, followed by an MRI, which showed old and active brain lesions, suggesting she had been living with RMS for quite some time, without her being aware.
The landscape for people living with MS has changed significantly over the last two decades, offering hope that may not have been previously present. Today, more than 20 MS treatments are approved in the U.S., allowing patients and their physicians the option to consider individual patient circumstances when establishing a treatment plan and strategy that addresses clinical needs.
Choosing the Appropriate RMS Treatment
Erika has had a strong relationship with her neurologists. In fact, the neurologist who confirmed her RMS helped her to feel optimistic about her diagnosis, especially given the number of approved treatment options available.
Erika notes, “This may sound strange, but I remember feeling a sense of hope when I was diagnosed because of the treatments available at that time and that so many more were being investigated.”
After her diagnosis, Erika’s neurologist referred her to MS specialist Heidi Crayton, MD. Over the years, Erika tried several medications, but in 2019 after experiencing side effects and new disease activity, she and Dr. Crayton discussed trying a disease-modifying therapy (DMT) that was approved and became available at that time – MAVENCLAD® (cladribine) tablets 10 mg.
MAVENCLAD is a prescription medicine used to treat relapsing forms of MS, to include relapsing-remitting disease and active secondary progressive disease in adults. Because of its safety profile, MAVENCLAD is generally used in people who have tried another MS medicine that they could not tolerate or that has not worked well enough. MAVENCLAD is not recommended for use in people with clinically isolated syndrome (CIS).
MAVENCLAD may cause serious side effects including the risk of cancer (malignancies) and birth defects if used during pregnancy. Females must not be pregnant when they start treatment with MAVENCLAD or become pregnant during MAVENCLAD dosing and within six months after the last dose of each yearly treatment course. Additional side effects can include low blood cell counts, serious infections such as TB, hepatitis B or C, shingles, or progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), liver problems, allergic reactions and heart failure. The most common side effects of MAVENCLAD include upper respiratory infection, headache, and low white blood cell count.
“When I share more information about MAVENCLAD with my patients they are intrigued,” states Dr. Crayton. “Part of this is due to the dosing schedule of MAVENCLAD where it is taken no more than 10 days a year over a two-year period. In addition, patients find comfort in the fact that MAVENCLAD was approved after 10 years of safety follow up.”
Upon completing the initial screening and education component, including the use of effective contraception and the need for ongoing monitoring and doctor visits, Erika began her MAVENCLAD treatment. “Learning about MAVENCLAD was really important. The dosing schedule really worked for me, though this is my own personal experience and could vary for others,” says Erika. “I completed my final dose in 2021, and now that I am not taking DMT pills every day of the year, I find that I am not thinking about my RMS as much as I was during my previous therapies. I continue to touch base with my neurologist, as needed, and schedule my routine exams.”
The Importance of Working with Your Doctor
For Erika, it was important to work closely with her neurologist while continuing to manage her RMS, from initial diagnosis through treatment selection and every step along the way.
“This is my body and my RMS, so I was very involved when it came to treatment choice. I respected and trusted my neurologist to provide the best options,” notes Erika. “We had many candid conversations. I had a lot of questions and received solid responses that made me feel comfortable with MAVENCLAD.”
As someone who was immunocompromised, having a strong relationship with her neurologist proved even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
MAVENCLAD works by depleting certain cells of the immune system, so ongoing discussions and trust in her neurologist made her feel armed with the appropriate information to make decisions during the pandemic.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I received a lot of questions from my MS patients about their treatments, as many thought that all DMTs were the same,” said Dr. Crayton. “As they are not all the same, I believe it’s important to share more information about the proposed mechanism of action for their respective treatments to better understand how their immune system may be affected, and further discuss vaccination considerations along with safety tips.”
When it comes to those newly diagnosed with MS, Erika has several pieces of advice:
MAVENCLAD® Indication and Important Safety Information
What is MAVENCLAD?
MAVENCLAD is a prescription medicine used to treat relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS), to include relapsing-remitting disease and active secondary progressive disease, in adults. Because of its safety profile, MAVENCLAD is generally used in people who have tried another MS medicine that they could not tolerate or that has not worked well enough. MAVENCLAD is not recommended for use in people with clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). It is not known if MAVENCLAD is safe and effective in children under 18 years of age and is therefore not recommended.
MAVENCLAD may cause serious side effects, including:
Do not take MAVENCLAD if you:
Before you take MAVENCLAD, tell your healthcare provider about all of your medical conditions, including if you:
How should I take MAVENCLAD?
Your healthcare provider will continue to monitor your health during the 2 yearly treatment courses, and for at least another 2 years during which you do not need to take MAVENCLAD. It is not known if MAVENCLAD is safe and effective in people who restart MAVENCLAD treatment more than 2 years after completing 2 yearly treatment courses.
MAVENCLAD can cause serious side effects. If you have any of these symptoms listed below, call your healthcare provider right away:
The most common side effects of MAVENCLAD include: upper respiratory infection, headache, and low white blood cell counts.
These are not all the possible side effects of MAVENCLAD. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
Erika and Dr. Crayton are sponsored by EMD Serono, Inc.
US-MAV-01485 February 2022 Intended for US only