About 400,000 Americans are living with multiple sclerosis with about 10,000 new cases diagnosed every year.
MS is a disease of the central nervous system. Among other things, it can cause pain and fatigue, and problems with vision and movement. Those symptoms can get progressively worse.
A newly-approved therapy may help some patients put the brakes on the disease.
David DeMay, 48, was diagnosed with MS.
"The initial pain and going blind in one eye freaks you out a bit," said DeMay.
Most of DeMay’s vision returned, but despite trying four different drugs over the years, nothing was really working to stop his symptoms.
That’s when Thomas Scott, neurologist for Allegheny Health Network, recommended DeMay try a new therapy called Lemtrada.
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“You’ll be able to continue to walk the way you do now, function the way you do now and we won’t lose any further ground with your disease,” said Scott.
Lemtrada is given to patients as an infusion. The drug works by targeting the proteins in white blood cells that are involved in MS.
Scott said Lemtrada might also help reverse symptoms in patients who have recently worsened.
“We can expect to turn the clock back three months, six months, maybe a year if we’re lucky,” Scott clarified. “In a very brief period of time, a number of symptoms got significantly better."
DeMay was an avid runner before his diagnosis. Now, he’s focusing on maintaining his mobility.
“Is the glass half-empty or half full? I’m just glad there’s something in the glass,” said DeMay.
Lemtrada was FDA-approved last year for MS patients who have failed to see any remission with other therapies. Scott said 70 percent of the patients who were on Lemtrada for clinical trials are still in remission five years later.