PHILADELPHIA (CBS3) – Thirty-two-year-old Nichole Kahn, who lives in Philadelphia, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, also known as MS, a year ago. First her tongue started tingling, then came the other symptoms.
“I had blurred vision. I couldn’t walk straight. I mean it’s a pretty awful disease,” said Nichole.
MS is a progressive disease the affects the central nervous system.
51-year-old John Daggett, who has trouble walking, has a more advanced case of MS.
Nichole doesn’t have any obvious signs of MS now because it’s being managed with injected medication, that most patients dread.
“They’re really nasty. It’s the bruising, the swelling, the lesions I have. The atrophy on my legs now. Plus it’s hard to deal with needles,” said Nichole.
Now she and other MS patients have a much less painful alternative. There is a new FDA approved drug called Gilenya. It’s the first pill to treat the disease.
“To be able to just take a pill will really be great and a lot easier,” said Nichole.
“It’s very significant,” said Dr. Clyde Markowitz, the Director of the MS Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
“People don’t want to do injections, so having a pill option is wonderful because there’s better compliance. Patients are more willing to go on therapy,” said Dr. Markowitz.
Gilenya works by blocking certain blood cells in lymph nodes, so they don’t move to the brain and spinal cord, which can reduce the severity and progression of MS.
“It’s amazing. I mean it’s totally the step in the right direction. I can’t wait to be able to take it,” said Nichole.
Patients who are put on the new drug will have to be closely monitored because it has some side effects that include a slow heart rate. It’s expected to be available by prescription soon.