New MS treatment available on PBS
Australians living with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) — the most common form of MS — can now access a new treatment option with the listing of Zeposia (ozanimod) on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Ozanimod is disease-modifying therapy (DMT) that alters immune system activity to help reduce the frequency of attacks to the central nervous system, which includes the brain, spine and optic nerve.1,2 The PBS listing coincides with the publication of an article in the Medical Journal of Australia’s Insight+, which highlights the role DMTs have played over the past few decades in managing RRMS.
More than 25,600 Australians are currently living with MS,3,4 with an estimated 30 new people diagnosed each week.5 MS is the most commonly diagnosed neurological disease in younger adults, with most people diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40 years.3,4
Representing 85% of MS diagnoses, RRMS is marked by relapses of new, or worsened symptoms or ‘attacks’, which can last for days or months, with intervals of partial, or complete remission in between.6
MS Australia CEO Rohan Greenland welcomed the reimbursement of a new treatment option for those living with RRMS.
“While research is advancing into the cause, prevention and cure of the disease, to date, MS remains incurable. Treatment can, however, help people with MS manage their symptoms, relapses, and importantly, slow disability progression. The nature and experience of those living with MS is varied and individualised, which is why MS Australia advocates for more affordable and accessible treatments, to help improve the lives of those living with the incurable disease.
“The PBS listing of Zeposia represents a valuable addition to the repertoire of affordable treatments available to those living with RRMS in Australia,” Greenland said.
Common physical symptoms of MS can include fatigue, limb weakness, altered sensations, such as pins and needles or numbness, muscle spasms or tremors, neurological pain, slurred speech, visual disturbances, incontinence and constipation. MS can cause cognitive symptoms, including brain fog, slow thinking, and impaired memory and concentration, in addition to personal and emotional changes, anxiety, depression and difficulties sleeping.7
The symptoms of MS can diminish quality of life by compromising one’s relationships, education, finances and career.8
According to author Clinical Associate Professor Todd Hardy — Co-Director of the MS Clinic, Brain and Mind Centre at The University of Sydney — treatment for MS must be tailored to the individual, given the highly varying and unpredictable nature of the disease.1
“MS affects how the body and brain communicates. The disease causes the immune system to attack the central nervous system, resulting in irreversible scarring on the nerves. This scarring causes messages that travel along the nerves from the brain to the body to be blocked or distorted, compromising physical and cognitive function.
“The symptoms of MS are extremely varied and unpredictable, depending on which part of the central nervous system is affected, and to what degree. Cognitive, physical and psychosocial symptoms of MS can vary greatly between person to person. Even a person’s own symptoms can vary over time,” Associate Professor Hardy said.
“In Australia, patient access is enhanced by the availability of RRMS treatment options via the PBS. As clinicians, we welcome the availability of an additional treatment option to help reduce the frequency of relapses, and slow the progression of disability in our patients living with RRMS.”
Neil MacGregor, General Manager of Bristol-Myers Squibb Australia and New Zealand, said the listing is another milestone for Australian patients living with MS.
“We share this achievement with the MS patient community, and are pleased another treatment option is available from today,” MacGregor said.
- MS Australia. Medications & Treatment. December 2020]; Available from: https://www.msaustralia.org.au/about-ms/medications-treatments.
- Tsivgoulis, G., et al., The Effect of Disease Modifying Therapies on Disease Progression in Patients with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS One, 2015. 10(12): p.e0144538.
- MS Australia. What is MS? December 2020]; Available from: https://www.msaustralia.org.au/what-ms.
- MS Research Australia. What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS). December 2020]; Available from: https://msra.org.au/what-is-multiple-sclerosis-ms/.
- MS International Federation. Factsheet. Atlas of MS February 2021]; Available from: https://www.atlasofms.org/fact-sheet/australia.
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS). December 2020]; Available from: https://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS/Types-of-MS/Relapsing-remitting-MS.
- Better Health Channel. Multiple sclerosis (MS). December 2020]; Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/multiple-sclerosisms#:~:text=On%20average%20more%20than%2010,be%20diagnosed%20with%20the%20disease.
- MS International Federation. What influences quality of life with MS and how can we improve it? Living with MS 2021 February 2021]; Available from: https://www.msif.org/living-with-ms/what-influences-quality-oflife/.
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