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New Medication Offers MS Remission at Lower Cost

September 26, 2023

A new option promises cost-effective relief for people experiencing multiple sclerosis relapses that don’t respond to other medications.

Affecting almost 3 million people in the world, and frequently striking between the ages of 20 and 40, multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the nervous system that can cause trouble walking, paralysis and vision loss, according to Brian Wong, MD, a MS specialist with the Hartford HealthCare Ayer Neuroscience Institute.

Of its variations, Dr. Wong says the most common form of MS is called “relapsing multiple sclerosis,” where individual experience alternating periods of worsening symptoms and remission. This form of the disease is what is targeted by Tyruko, a biosimilar medication recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, he says.

“These medications prevent episodes of acute worsening, or what we refer to as MS relapses or flares,” Dr. Wong says. “They also prevent silent inflammatory activity on the nervous system and prevent long-term disability.”

What is a biosimilar medication?

Biosimilar medications like Tyruko are modeled after an existing biologic medication. They are close in structure and function to the biologic, which refers to medicine made in a living system versus with chemicals.

Tyruko was modeled after Tysabri, a medication approved for MS in 2004.

“Biosimilar medications are those that have similar molecular structure and function to products that have been previously approved,” Dr. Wong explains. “Just like the medications they are modeled after, biosimilar medications are tested in clinical trials to demonstrate safety and efficacy before they are approved.”

Like a generic version of a drug, a biosimilar can be used in place of another medication but, unlike a generic, it is not an exact copy of the brand name drug. Instead, it is considered highly similar, Dr. Wong says.

“Tysabri is a monoclonal antibody that is quite effective in people who have not responded well to other treatments. It helps slow the progression of the disease,” he says of the original medication.

What are the benefits of this new drug for people with MS?

The benefit of a biosimilar medication is often decreased cost without a difference in effectiveness of the medicine.

“We know that treatment of MS with medication can slow the disease’s progression, but it is still a lifelong condition,” Dr. Wong says. “Unfortunately, the treatment of a chronic condition can come with high financial cost especially over a person’s lifetime.”

The annual cost of multiple sclerosis treatment is typically tens of thousands of dollars prior to insurance coverage. Any options to reduce costs for patients is always welcome, he adds.

In addition to MS, Tyruko is also approved for treating Crohn’s disease.