This week, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug to treat primary progressive multiple sclerosis, the most severe form of the disease. Ocrelizumab, commercially known as Ocrevus, will become available to the public in two weeks, and represents hope for a group of MS patients who had no drug options, CNN reported. It has also been approved to treat a more common form of the disease.

It is not hailed as a “miracle drug,” as it can only halt the disease's progression, not cure MS. In addition, the drug is being sold for about $65,000 a year, which is on par with other MS drug prices. Although this may seem steep, according to CNN, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society applauded the price tag.

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"We encourage other companies to follow suit, creating a drug pricing trend that keeps patients first," Cyndi Zagieboylo, the organization's president, said in a statement, CNN reported. "The continually escalating prices of MS disease-modifying therapies are creating barriers to people with MS getting these life-changing medications.”

Ocrevus works by targeting immune cells known as B cells that have previously been identified as playing a major role in MS progression, CNN reported. In addition to treating primary progressive MS, Ocrevus also is approved for treating the relapsing form of multiple sclerosis. This form of MS is more common than primary progressive MS, and research found that patients are Ocrevus relapsed half as often as those on another more expensive MS medication.

According to Healthline, multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system. It is characterized by the slow breakdown of the protective layering of the nerve cells, called the myelin sheath. The condition is more common in women, and requires a lifetime of care and medication. In the case of primary progressive MS, there are no relapses or remissions, as the disease is progressive from the very start. It is also the most rare form of the condition, and affects only about 10 percent of people diagnosed with MS, Healthline reported.

It is currently unknown what causes MS. Research suggests that there may be genetic factors, as well as enviromental and lifestyle risks, that may play a role in whether someone develops the disease.

At the moment, the long-term effects of Ocrevus are not known, but researchers will closely monitor the progression and side effects of patients prescribed the medication.

See Also:

Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms Research 2017: Why Do Some MS Patients Have Seizures?

World Multiple Sclerosis Day 2016: How Being Independent Helps People With MS Live A Better Life