Jeanette Lechner-Scott MS PLEGRIDY PBS Listed Interview
Biogen Idec is pleased to announce that from 1st March 2015 PLEGRIDY (peginterferon beta-1a) will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for treatment in patients with clinically definite relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis (MS). PLEGRIDY is the first pegylated beta interferon to be PBS listed for MS, and is required to be injected subcutaneously once every two weeks. It is administered with the PLEGRIDY Pen, a new, ready to use autoinjector.
'We are delighted that patients with MS will have access to PLEGRIDY in Australia via the PBS," said Joerg Hermans, Managing Director, Biogen Idec Australia and New Zealand.
'PLEGRIDY offers people living with MS a new option which is effective and dosed once every two weeks via a new autoinjector pen."
PLEGRIDY is a subcutaneous injectable therapy for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (RMS), in which interferon beta-1a is pegylated to extend its half-life to permit a dosing schedule of once every two weeks. PLEGRIDY is a member of the interferon class of treatments for MS.
When you must not take PLEGRIDY
Do not use PLEGRIDY if you have an allergy to interferon beta, peginterferon beta-1a, or any other component of the formulation. Do not use PLEGRIDY if you are pregnant, have severe depression or think about committing suicide.
Before taking PLEGRIDY
Tell your doctor if you have or have had the following: Depression or problems with your moods, or if you have ever considered committing suicide, a seizure, fit or convulsion, liver problems, bleeding problems, a problem with your heart, thyroid problems, and bone marrow suppression.
Taking other medicines
PLEGRIDY may interact with some other medicines that are broken down by the liver, e.g. medicines to treat epilepsy and depression.
Very common side effects of PLEGRIDY are -flu-like' symptoms, e.g. headache, tiredness, muscle aches, joint pain, shivering and fever, and injection site reactions including redness, itching and pain. Common side effects include headache, muscle pain, pain in your joints, arms, legs or neck, chills, feeling cold, feeling weak and tired, nausea or vomiting, pruritus, increase in body temperature. Other side effects not listed above may occur in some people. Rare, serious side effects include yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes, itching, nausea and vomiting, easy bruising of the skin, loss of appetite, tiredness, confusion, bleeding more easily than normal, dark coloured urine and pale stools.
MS is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Symptoms may be mild or severe, ranging from numbness in the limbs to paralysis or loss of vision. The progression, severity and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide, with more than 23,000 sufferers in the Australia. Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) is the most common form of MS accounting for 85 percent of cases. It is characterized by clearly defined acute attacks with full recovery or with residual deficit upon recovery.
Interview with NSW Neurologist Associate Professor Jeanette Lechner-Scott
Question: What is PLEGRIDY?
Jeanette Lechner-Scott: Plegridy (peginterferon beta-1a) is a treatment for clinically definite relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis (MS). PLEGRIDY is the first pegylated beta interferon to be PBS listed for MS, and is required to be injected subcutaneously once every two weeks (instead of every other day or three times a week). It is administered with the PLEGRIDY Pen, a new, ready to use auto-injector which allows patients to inject themselves at home.
Question: What does it mean for Australians suffering with MS to have PLEGRIDY added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)?
Jeanette Lechner-Scott: The reimbursement of Plegridy makes it more affordable and accessible to MS patients. Patients with MS have a variety of different symptoms and disease activity so different patients will require different treatments that satisfy their own needs. Having more choice in the field a major advantage so that neurologists can help tailor treatment to each individual patient.
Question: How will the reimbursement impact MS treatment in Australia?
Jeanette Lechner-Scott: Plegridy is a subcutaneous application, so it's a like an insulin injection, which is administered by the patient via a very tiny needle. It also allows the patient the option to inject only every two weeks. The treatment takes only five seconds to administer, which means treatment takes just over two minutes a year of the patient's time.
Question: How will the reimbursement impact MS treatment in Australia?
Jeanette Lechner-Scott: People with MS in Australia are very fortunate to have all 9 approved medications available on PBS. Their treatment can be tailored to the individual needs not to their budget.
Question: Can you talk about how PLEGRIDY fight the symptoms of MS?
Jeanette Lechner-Scott: Plegridy is the pegylated form of interferon-beta, the first medication to have shown to reduce relapses and disability accumulation in people with MS. It has therefore the longest safety record and also data that it can reduce mortality from MS.
Question: How much is PLEGRIDY going to cost those with MS, as of March 1st?
Jeanette Lechner-Scott: A one month supply without PBS reimbursement would put a patient out of pocket about $1,000. So each year a patient would need to pay roughly $12K to receive their treatment. Considering patients can need to be on these medicines for decades, this would come as a significant cost to the average patient. Now, with the reimbursement a one month supply will cost a (non-concession) patient just $37.70.
Question: What are the signs and symptoms of MS?
Jeanette Lechner-Scott: MS is an autoimmune disease where the immune system goes into overdrive and attacks the brain or spinal cord. The problem is that you can't really tell where it will attack the patient, in the brain or the spinal cord, and therefore the symptoms can vary. Patients have a large range and combination of symptoms including visual symptoms, memory problems, weakness in the muscles, balance problems. This will sometimes result in the patient requiring a walking stick or wheelchair. There is great uncertainty surrounded with it, you can't predict if you will end up blind and in a wheel chair or if you will be able to maintain a normal active life. The uncertainty surrounded with an MS diagnosis really effects patients.
Question: Is it possible to prevent MS?
Jeanette Lechner-Scott: We know by now that there are a number of genes pre-disposing to MS and some environmental factors like sunlight, Vitamin D or viral infections that can further affect your risk to develop the disease. No drug or vaccination has yet shown to prevent the disease but the available medications can prevent severe disability especially when started early.
Interview by Brooke Hunter