Lemtrada (alemtuzumab), a new drug developed for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) reduces the relapse rates, though there might be minimal chances of cancer-risk.
Recently, Samuel F. Hunter, MD, PhD, President of the Advanced Neurosciences Institute in Franklin, Tennessee, presented a paper at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers in Indianapolis, Indiana on outcomes in patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis treated with Lemtrada (alemtuzumab).
Rebif (interferon beta-1a) is the standard drug prescribed for MS but Lemtrada demonstrated the reduction in relapse rates over 2 years. The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug in November 2014 after two large, phase III clinical trials.
One of the studies also showed that Lemtrada might also reduce disease progression. He said the first trial began 24 years ago, so primary care physicians may want to share this with their relapsing MS patients who are concerned about trying a "new" drug.
Hunter explained that Lemtrada is thought of as a permanent disease-modifying therapy. "It cleans the immune system up, both the B and T cells. Transiently, it removes a lot of these cells and lets the immune system reconstitute. No one knows how it can make MS better yet, but the immune system is different," he said.
Hunter conducted a phase I nonrandomized open label study of 60 patients, using them as their own control. Most patients who switched to Lemtrada had been on the injectible drugs interferon beta-1a or Copaxone.
Lemtrada was the first drug that was tested head-to-head with interferon beta-1a, which is the standard treatment. In the 2 trials that were done, it was very clear that Lemtrada was much more effective than interferon beta-1a. "The longer it goes, the better it looks because you're changing the immune system with Lemtrada," he said.
He said most patients stayed stable for up to 2 years after one treatment and then got even better with more treatments. "It's clear that Lemtrada works for a while, then it wears off and then we retreat those patients," he said.