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Exciting new hope for MS patients is here
By Laura Lohmeier
HEALTH MATTERS OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2015
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Exciting new hope for MS patients is here

Monica Lawson has experienced great success with a newly-approved drug for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS). She is shown here in the photo at left with Meghan Kinnetz, MSN, ARNP, FNP-BC, MSCN (left) and Bruce Hughes, M.D. (right).

For Monica Lawson and Michael Redman, both of their journeys began in a similar way – in a car. Monica was 17 years old when she realized she couldn’t hold her foot down on the gas pedal while driving and she had to set the cruise control to keep the car in motion. Michael realized something was wrong when he asked his mom what radio station they were listening to in the car. His mom couldn’t believe he wasn’t able to see the dashboard from the front seat. Both realized something was terribly wrong and so began their journeys with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Diagnosing MS isn’t always easy, as Monica knows first-hand. “Initially doctors believed I was having vision problems due to stress, since I had just started college,” she said. After she noticed numbness in her face, they thought her wisdom teeth might be the cause. When her wisdom teeth were removed and the numbness continued, they became more concerned. She was referred to a neurologist and received her official diagnosis at age 18. Michael received his diagnosis the day before his 16th birthday. MS can be debilitating and life-changing. Michael said. “The kids in my small-town high school avoided me like the plague – they had never seen someone with MS before.” Monica agreed, saying “I lost a lot of friendships due to the fact I couldn’t walk – it’s hard to get out and be social when you can’t move like you want to.” She also had to drop out of nursing school because of trouble with her memory.

MS is an autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system. A fatty tissue called myelin surrounds and protects the nerve fibers of the brain and spinal cord. Myelin helps the brain “talk” to the muscles and, with MS, the myelin is damaged and the nerve fiber is covered by scar tissue. Messages from the brain cannot reach the muscles, causing symptoms, which can vary based on where the damage is located in the body. Common symptoms include weakness, tingling, numbness, lack of coordination, fatigue, blurred vision, tremors, muscle stiffness and problems speaking and swallowing.

Both Monica and Michael sought treatment with Bruce Hughes, M.D., and Meghan Kinnetz, ARNP, at Mercy Ruan Neurology Clinic. Dr. Hughes and Meghan are certified in MS treatment and manage care for approximately 2,000 people with MS.

Unfortunately for Monica and Michael, it appeared they weren’t responding to any available treatments. Fast forward to November 2014, however, and the FDA announced the approval and release of Lemtrada™, a new drug for long-term treatment of relapsing MS. Lemtrada is given via IV infusion for five days. A five-year clinical study showed amazing results, with 87 percent of patients free of sustained disability accumulation, 72 percent relapse-free and 65 percent free of disease activity completely1. By December of that year, both were chosen as excellent candidates for Lemtrada by Dr. Hughes and Meghan. Mercy had participated in the clinical trials and became the first hospital in Iowa to administer the exciting new treatment.

In spring of 2015, Monica and Michael received their first Lemtrada treatment. Both said they were nervous, but agreed they had nothing to lose at that point. Although it’s still a little early to fully assess the results, both patients report feeling much better.

“It sounds silly, but I’m enjoying being able to get more done around the house,” said Monica. “Before treatment, I could only do laundry and would need a break. I’ve noticed that I can now do laundry and unload the dishwasher. I’m able to do more because my legs and arms can move much better.”

Michael has noticed the difference as well. “It gets old taking a pill or a shot every day. Now I can get up and live my life without worrying about multiple treatments and whether or not they are working. I don’t have time to worry about MS – I have a family and I need to be able to take care of them,” he added.

Monica and Michael have something else in common – both are very appreciative of the care they received from Dr. Hughes and Meghan and the rest of the Mercy staff. Monica says, “I’m very thankful that they thought of me for this treatment. The staff was amazing and made me feel so comfortable during treatment.”

“Lemtrada is a new and potent therapy to help us in the fight against the disabling effects of multiple sclerosis,” said Dr. Hughes, who is optimistic that Michael and Monica’s symptoms will continue to improve and that Lemtrada can help more MS patients who aren’t adequately responding to other treatments.

1: Wells Courtney, S., & Burks, J. (2014, November 14). LemtradaTM Receives FDA Approval for Relapsing Forms of MS. Retrieved August 6, 2015.

Learn more.

For more information about Mercy Ruan Neurology Clinic, visit mercydesmoines.org/ruanneurology.

 

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