Hackensack University Medical Center announced a newly approved US Food and Drug Administration drug is now available to treat adult patients with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) and primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS). The drug, Ocrevus, which received FDA approval on March 28th, is the first and only medicine for both relapsing and primary progressive forms of multiple sclerosis. Hackensack University Medical Center is among the first hospitals in Northern New Jersey to administer the drug, with its first patient receiving an infusion this past month.
“We are pleased to offer this important new treatment option to patients at the Multiple Sclerosis Center at Hackensack University Medical Center,” said Florian P. Thomas, M.D., M.A., Ph.D., M.S., director of the MS Center, chair of the Neuroscience Institute and interim chair of the Department of Neurology at Hackensack University Medical Center, as well as founding chair and professor, Department of Neurology, Seton Hall-Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. “This therapy not only provides a new highly effective treatment option for those with relapsing multiple sclerosis, but for the first time offers hope for those with primary progressive multiple sclerosis, to whom until now we could only offer treatment of their symptoms, but were unable to improve their prognosis. ”
The drug, ocrelizumab, under the brand name Ocrevus, targets certain B-cells in the blood, which are responsible for inflammation and demyelination. Clinical trials with PPMS patients showed that those taking the drug experienced a 24 percent reduction in disease progression and a decrease in a number of brain lesions. Ocrevus only needs to be administered intravenously every six months.
“We are pleased to be one of the first institutions to administer this newly approved drug that could be a game-changer for patients who have not responded to previous treatments. Our rapid implementation of this new drug into our treatment regimen, demonstrates our commitment to offer our patients individualized care and every effective treatment option on the market,” Dr. Thomas added.
The Multiple Sclerosis Center at Hackensack University Medical Center opened in October 2016. Dr. Thomas and colleagues treat people with MS and related disorders. The state-of-the-art, patient-centered facility, provides comprehensive care that addresses each person’s physical and emotional needs. The center gives patients easy access to counseling and neuro-psychology, urology, MS specialized physical and occupational therapy, treatment for spasticity and tremor, and an infusion center. The center, designed to provide patients a seamless and convenient experience, serves as a hub for clinical care, community engagement, research, training and education for the community.
“Thanks to Dr. Florian Thomas’ innovative leadership, we are transforming our treatment of patients with multiple sclerosis and delivering unsurpassed results,” said Ihor S. Sawczuk, M. D., president of Hackensack University Medical Center.
Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information in the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord. In the United States, MS affects approximately one in 1,000 people, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. Most people experience their first symptoms of MS between the ages of 20 and 40.