November 1, 2014

FDA Approves New Drug for MS Treatment

The United States Food and Drug Administration announced on March 27, 2013 that it has approved the drug Tecfidera to treat adults with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis symptoms.  The drug activates a chemical pathway in the body known as NrF2 that protects nerve cells from inflammation.

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Biogen will begin distributing Tecfidera within the next few months.

Researchers believe that Tecfidera may decrease a patient’s white blood cell count and thus reduce inflammation when a patient’s immune system attacks healthy nerve cells. Results from clinical trials suggest that Tecfidera may slow down the progress of MS symptoms.

Tecfidera is reported to produce mild side effects, which diminish over time.  In a Social Security disability context, administrative law judges expect MS patients to comply with their doctors’ instructions regarding medications.

The FDA regularly evaluates new medicines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies.  Here is a link to a page on the FDA site which identifies current new approvals.

How Can an MS Patient Win Social Security Disability Benefits Early?

Here is a question I received from a multiple sclerosis patient who is preparing to apply for Social Security disability and is hoping to win her case early.

Jonathan,
First, I want to thank you for putting valuable information about the SSDI process online. I was diagnosed with MS in 1993. I recently left work on an early disability retirement after a 24 year career with the State of ABC.  My question is this – if I have MS and my medical records document cognitive dysfunction, isn’t it feasible that I would be approved with my initial application to SS? Although I did very well in the beginning of the journey, as I have gotten older, (I’m only 44), my disease has started progressing over the last few years. Will the fact that I have taken an early disability retirement from the state weigh favorably towards my case?

Here are my thoughts: the first question I would ask is “are you insured for Title II Social Security disability?”  In some states, employees do not contribute into the Social Security system- instead, they contribute to a state disability program.  I would advise you to contact your human resources office to confirm that you have been making payments into the Social Security system.  You can also call Social Security at 800-772-1213 to inquire as to whether you have been earning credits.  You can also request an earnings and benefit statement (Form 7004) from Social Security directly.

If you are not insured for Title II SSDI, then you might still be eligible for SSI, but that will depend on household income and the value of assets that you own. [Read More...]

MRI showing multiple sclerosis

Delays in Social Security Disability Decisions May Result in Higher Costs to Medicare

MRI showing multiple sclerosisSocial Security disability claimants become eligible for Medicare on the 25th month after they first become eligible for a Social Security disability payment.   For MS patients lacking access to regular review of prescribed medications, these delays may unnecessarily increase suffering and may dramatically increase the cost to the government when a claimant’s disease moves from a relapse-remitting stage to a progressive stage.

Medicare recently announced a breakthrough analysis of MS (Multiple Sclerosis) costs which showed that as the disease progresses, the care costs involved escalate dramatically.  The research firm of JEN Associates and Wyeth conducted a study using a novel computer analysis to sort out MS patients by the stage that their disease was in, basing this on their Medicare payment records.  The result of the study was that this led to a better understanding of MS treatment costs.  The results of the study also indicated how well Medicare could reap more savings if effective treatment could block the advancements of the disease.

Consequently, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd. is funding a worldwide study involving 1,350 MS patients in order to determine how safe and effective the medication glatiramer acetate (Copaxone®) for the treatment of the disease.  The standard dose of glatiramer acetate is 20mg but the study is testing a higher dosage of 40mg administered only 3 times per week instead of the daily dosage of the smaller amount.  The study will last a year and has been named the “GALA” Study. [Read More...]

California man touts the healing properties of a jellyfish protein for treatment of MS

Since the beginning of time, people have been using their own personal remedies to treat illnesses and even disease.  There have been secret family medications and potions sold in bottles by roadside peddlers.  There are old wives tales about chicken soup for colds, drinking water upside down for hiccups, and honey for sore throats.  Simply put, for every researched drug and therapy on the market for one single disease, there are probably ten natural or familial remedies.  It comes as no surprise then that a California man is attesting to the healing properties of jellyfish…

According to The Examiner, Josh Sheldon of Fremont, California took the advice of a friend and began studying the impact of jellyfish protein on Multiple Sclerosis, which he suffered from.  He was so impressed with the results that he was involved in a press release about jellyfish and multiple sclerosis.  He was diagnosed with the condition in 2008 and the debilitating effects were very difficult on him.  The disease not only brings about physical pain and limits a person’s ability to walk, but also mental anguish in dealing with the day to day problems that the condition causes.  Josh decided to begin a regimen of jellyfish protein manufactured by a Wisconsin firm, Quincy Bioscience.  The protein is made to restore a calcium balance in the body common in neurodegentive diseases and age related problems.

The results were immediate and life altering.  According to his press release and The Examiner, after only four weeks Josh began feeling a difference, especially in relief from pain in his skin.  He noted that every day the pain decreased while he continued to improve physically, being able to walk with better coordination and little stumbling.  He also found that he had sensation in his limbs, rather than a tingling feeling.  The protein also gave him the ability to button his shirts, which was a task that had eluded him since his diagnosis.  Overall, the jellyfish health supplement has allowed Josh to feel like himself again, both mentally and physically.

Despite my disappointment that actual jellyfish were not used in this treatment option, it is interesting to think that something that already exists in nature may be a cure and viable therapy for multiple sclerosis.  One may wonder, however, if this treatment will be recognized by an Administrative Law Judge in a Social Security Disability Benefits hearing.  It is likely that as long as the treatment is discussed and recorded by your physician, a Judge will probably take this unorthodox treatment into consideration.