New medication that helps slow ALS to be available in 2017


Affecting between 12,000 and 15,000 Americans, ALS, otherwise known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, attacks and kills nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that give one the ability to control the voluntary muscles of the body. As it progresses, the disease takes away the ability of the patient to chew, walk, breathe and talk. Once diagnosed, many patients die due to respiratory failure within three to five years. Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, so named after the New York Yankees player Lou Gehrig who retired shortly after being diagnosed with the disease in 1939, the disease is currently in the spotlight as the “Ice Bucket Challenge” took social media by storm in 2013. In an attempt to raise awareness for the rare condition, the challenge involved individuals filling up buckets with cold water and ice, pouring it over their heads, posting the video on social media, challenging three more individuals to do the same and donating funds toward research for the condition.
For years, the only ALS drug on the US market was Riluzole, which slowed down the progression of the disease in a large percentage of individuals. However, for the first time in 20 years, there’s a new ray of hope. The new drug, chemically known as edaravone and commercially as Radicava, was developed by Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp. The Japan-based company has sold the drug in South Korea and Japan since 2015. In a study conducted in Japan, 137 patients were chosen in a random fashion and given either a placebo drug or the real thing. At the conclusion of the six-months, the drug was found to slow the decline of a patient’s condition. Now, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has come to the decision to approve Radicava in the US, expecting it to hit the markets sometime in August of 2017, according to the MT Pharma America (MTPA) Chief Commercial Officer Tom Larson.
As is the case with Riluzole, Radicava is not a cure. The drug has been proven to slow down the worsening of the disease in many individuals; many, because the disease is unique to the individual with respect to how it progresses. As such, it is a step in the right direction. Patients who undergo Radicava treatment will receive the drug intravenously, with infusions every day for two weeks, followed by a two-week break. Subsequent treatments involve infusions for ten out of the 14 days, followed once more by a two-week break.
Radicava does not come risk free. Serious side-effects, as stated by the FDA, include gait disturbance and bruising. Others may also experience hives, shortness of breath, allergic reactions and swelling. Despite the reported adverse reactions however, researchers and doctors remain hopeful and for those suffering from the terminal disease, the side effects are worth it when the end result is extending their life.


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