I saw three patients 9-and-half-years after starting treatment with alemtuzumab as first-line therapy, yesterday. It was a remarkable experience. Only one of the three patients had needed a third cycle of alemtuzumab. All are in long-term remission; i.e. flat-lining on the EDSS, relapse-free and with no MRI activity (NEDA-3). Their EDSS scores yesterday were 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0. All of them are fully functional, with no physical and cognitive restrictions and described themselves as being well. One patient suggested to me she doesn’t have MS anymore. One patient has had ITP and recovered from it. All three patients have normally functioning immune systems with normal total lymphocyte counts. None of them is concerned about infections, travel, vaccinations or secondary malignancies. This is why treating MS with an immune reconstitution therapy, such as alemtuzumab, is so appealing.
I have a dream that this will be the new normal and all people with MS in future will have similar experiences. I sincerely hope the EMA allows people with MS to be treated and managed the same way as these three patients of mine have. I still have had no response from the EMA to my letter below. Maybe they don’t care?
Can anybody tell me from testing their vision if they are short- or long-sighted?
Open letter the EMA sent on the 20th August 2019
European Medicines Agency
Alemtuzumab has transformed the MS treatment landscape. It not only provides superior short term efficacy, but a significant number of patients treated with alemtuzumab note improvement in disability. However, its main advantage over other DMTs is that a large proportion of patients go into longterm remission and normalise the rate of their brain volume loss. In regard to the latter, this is unprecedented in comparison to other licensed MS disease-modifying therapies, with the possible exception of haemopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), which is not licensed and hence not widely available to treat patients with MS in Europe. Alemtuzumab, therefore, is the only realistic alternative to HSCT, which has become a very popular treatment choice amongst people with multiple sclerosis, in particular, ‘digital natives’ who get their information online. As with all DMTs the earlier you use them the more effective they are and the greater the benefit to the individual patient. Alemtuzumab is, therefore, an important treatment option for people with MS; being able to offer alemtuzumab early as a treatment option is an important factor in my clinical practice to dissuade many Britsih patients from travelling abroad for HSCT.
At our centre, Barts Health NHS Trust, we have now treated over 250 patients with alemtuzumab with over 40% being treated with alemtuzumab first-line. Patients receiving alemtuzumab first-line tend to have more active disease and less favourable baseline prognostic profile. Despite its side effect profile and the need for monthly monitoring, many patients are willing to take on the risks and the burden of monitoring to be treated with the most effective licensed DMT first-line. All our patients are extensively counselled about the risks and benefits of alemtuzumab treatment and sign an informed consent and a patient contract agreeing to the mandatory monitoring programme. We feel the use of alemtuzumab in the correct environment is relatively safe and the adverse events manageable. Not having alemtuzumab for use in early active disease would mean patients having to wait to fail several other, less effective, licensed DMTs prior to accessing alemtuzumab. I firmly believe in the concept that ‘time is brain and spinal cord’ in MS and delaying access to the most effective treatment would limit our ability to optimise the management of MS in patients with more active disease and in those with a poor prognostic profile. In addition, shifting the use of alemtuzumab to a population of patients with more advanced disease would unfavourably change the benefit-risk profile of alemtuzumab and make it less appealing as a treatment option.
The real-life data of alemtuzumab clearly supports it as being the most effective DMT on the market and its other attributes in relation to its posology make it a very appealing therapy; for example in women wanting to start or extend their families.
In summary, limiting alemtuzumab to a third-line, last resort DMT, will severely limit our treatment options for managing this devastating disease. Alemtuzumab offers many patients with MS a real hope of living as normal a life as possible, however, this option does depend on using alemtuzumab early in the course of the disease. I, therefore, appeal to the MS community and the European Medicine Agency to consider these factors when reviewing the benefits and risks of alemtuzumab as a treatment for MS.