A woman named Jennifer Garner was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004 after losing the sensation of feeling in the entire left side of her body. The drug Rebif provided relief for a short time until her illness progressed to a point at which Rebif could no longer work to combat the symptoms of MS. A new experimental drug called alemtuzumab has dramatically improved Garner’s condition: she is still able to work her full-time job as a medical professional. She also owns her own business and raises her two children, all of which would be beyond her physical capabilities if not for Alemtuzumab.
Although alemtuzumab is still in its clinical testing phase, doctors are hopeful about its potential for combating MS on a global scale. It works by slowing down the rate at which patients lose control of their motor functions. In trials it has been shown to work 49% more effectively than Rebif. It works by reducing the amount of damage MS causes to the optic nerves and central nervous system. It cannot be called a cure for multiple sclerosis, but some doctors are so optimistic about the drug’s success rate as to speculate that many patients who take alemtuzumab will never need to use canes or wheelchairs. Alemtuzumab will be called Lemtrada commercially.
For the 400,000 Americans currently living with MS, this is very good news. MS first presents with blurry vision, tremors, and exhaustion. Lemtrada will be administered intravenously over the course of two years, after which additional doses may not be necessary. Some possible harmful side effects are thyroid problems, low blood platelets and bulging eyes. Jennifer Garner notes that she was unable to work for a few weeks after receiving her treatment, but found the long-term results to be well worth some temporary discomfort.